A larger-than-life Doris Miller is making his final road trip to Waco.
A 9-foot-tall bronze statue depicting the Waco-born World War II hero is set to be unveiled on the banks of the Brazos River on Thursday, which is Pearl Harbor Day.
The 4 p.m. unveiling ceremony at Bledsoe-Miller Park will feature local dignitaries, Miller family relatives and former crew members of the now-decommissioned USS Doris Miller.
The statue is a centerpiece of the Doris Miller Memorial, which has been years in the making and is still under construction. Officials have raised $1.2 million for the first phase of the memorial and are hoping the installation of the statue will help them raise an additional $600,000 to complete it with a stylized ship hull that will envelop the war hero.
“I think when people actually see it they will be excited about it,” said Gerald Powell, a Baylor Law School professor who has raised funds for the project. “They will be anxious to see Doris Miller home on the banks of the Brazos and see this project come to fruition.”
Memorial officials said they plan to dedicate Phase 1 on Memorial Day, and there’s a chance the whole project could be done by then.
The project has cost more than expected: At $1.3 million, the first phase swallowed up the budget for the whole project, and funding for Phase 2 is still being assessed.
Miller was the first black hero of World War II, and his story was used to recruit other African-Americans to the war effort. A mess attendant on the USS West Virginia stationed at Pearl Harbor, he dragged his injured captain to safety, then directed machine-gun fire at enemy aircraft as the ship sank.
He received the Navy Cross for his heroics, and recent decades have seen efforts to award him a posthumous Medal of Honor. He was later killed in combat while on a ship in the Pacific.
The Doris Miller statue was created by Lubbock sculptor Eddie Dixon, who had it cast in bronze at a foundry in Loveland, Colorado. Dixon said the statue was heading toward Waco on Monday.
Doreen Ravenscroft, the Cultural Arts of Waco official who has spearheaded the memorial effort, said she thinks the community will be proud of the statue.
“From what I’ve seen, it looks absolutely beautiful,” she said. “The patina on it is a beautiful golden bronze color. I think it will reflect the light, and when it’s finally placed in its final position at the steel wall, it’s going to look totally amazing. … I’m really excited that it’s beginning to look like what we said was really going to happen.”
The unveiling is part of a cluster of events relating to Pearl Harbor Day, including a re-enactment of Gen. George Patton’s “war room” all day Friday and Saturday at Indian Spring Park. On Friday evening, the Baylor Swing Dance Society will host a swing dance event on the Suspension Bridge.
A swing dance celebration is scheduled on the Suspension Bridge. For more information, visit www.dorismillermemorial.org.