Richmond or bust
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It’s a long time coming. Seventy-eight years, to be exact.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Lewis (1720-1781), a Virginian of French & Indian and Revolutionary War fame, is having a bronze bust installed in his honor on Monday in the Old Hall of the House of Delegates at the Virginia State Capitol.
The Lewis bust was supposed to join fellow Virginia heroes in the Old Hall many years ago. As a result of an act passed by the Virginia General Assembly on March 22, 1932, the Lewis bust was to stand alongside the busts of fellow Revolutionary War patriots Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee and George Mason, explorer Meriwether Lewis, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and agriculturalist Cyrus McCormick.
Somehow, it appears Gen. Lewis will be fashionably late to the party. But that’s just fine with the sponsors who have been organizing the event for some time, including the Salem Educational Foundation & Alumni Association, the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.
The Lewis family established Augusta County, Va., when it was still a frontier wilderness that stretched west to the Mississippi and south to the Gulf of Mexico. The Andrew Lewis family later settled in the portion of Virginia that is now the town of Salem in Roanoke County. Direct descendants Lewis A. Pitzer of Martinsville, Va., and Andrew C. Pitzer of Washington, D.C. will officially represent the Lewis family during the bust dedication ceremony. The bust will permanently reside in the Old Hall, a few yards from the Capitol Rotunda’s centerpiece, Jean-Antoine Houdon’s life-size marble statue of George Washington, friend and compatriot of Andrew Lewis.
“We are thrilled to finally see this great Virginian from the western part of the state honored at the State Capitol,” said Betsy McClearn, project director for the Salem Educational Foundation & Alumni Association. “It’s a long time coming.”
The Foundation raised money over the past few years to help pay the costs of commissioning the bust. Benefactors include the Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution and the Dr. Richard Fisher family of Salem.
The bust was sculpted by artist Anne Bell, a Roanoke native who has spent the last 19 years living and working in Florida. Since there is no known contemporary likeness of Lewis other than a crude silhouette done in his later years, Bell sculpted the bust primarily using four sources: a visual description by a captain who served under Lewis, the Capitol Square statue of Lewis done in the mid 1800s, a statue of Lewis done in West Virginia early 1900s and physical features of Lewis family descendants.
The installation ceremony will be hosted by the Office of the Clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates, the legislative body in which Lewis served after his Revolutionary War service. Representatives from Salem, Va., Roanoke, Va., Augusta County, Va., the Office of the Governor of West Virginia and the Sons of the Revolution in the Commonwealth of Virginia will be among honored guests in attendance. The Fishburne Military School Color Guard of Augusta County, Va., will present the national and state colors, along with the colors of the Sons of the Revolution and the 3rd Virginia Regiment, a flag honoring Gen. Lewis’ service during the Revolutionary War.
The bust will be available for viewing during scheduled tours by Capitol staff after the ceremony.