Preparation is in high gear for the unveiling of a big bronze Joe Louis statue on this Saturday (2/27) in LaFayette, Alabama. The eight-foot bronze statue rests on a base of Alabama red granite on the west side of Chambers County Courthouse. A large crowd is expected to view the unveiling at 2 p.m. CST on Saturday. Joe Louis is regarded by many as the most famous individual to emerge from this east Alabama locale. Joe Louis Barrow Jr., son of the Brown Bomber, and other family members, as well as several sports notables, are expected to take part in the weekend events.
Leading up to the unveiling, there will be several celebratory events. The festivities start with the Brown Bomber Gospel Explosion at LaFayette High School Gym at 6 p.m. CST on Friday evening, Feb. 26. Several area gospel groups will salute the statue with songs of praise and worship. Admission is free.
At 8 a.m. CST on Saturday, Feb. 27, Joe Louis Barrow Jr. will be keynote speaker at a Prayer Breakfast for men and women at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in LaFayette. Admission is free but reservations have to be made in advance to assure adequate food and seating. To make a reservation, call 334.864.9709 and leave a message. Registration deadline is Feb. 24.
“When making a reservation, we must have the names of those coming – not just the number of people. Admission on that Saturday morning will be according to the names we have listed,” said the Rev. Michael Stiggers, pastor at Mt. Pisgah. “So, if you leave a message at the telephone number, be sure to provide the name of every person in your party,” he advised. “We want to make sure that we have a place for everyone and that everything runs smoothly. We want this to be a real thanksgiving for Joe Louis and this wonderful statue.”
In downtown LaFayette that Saturday, street vendors offering a variety of foods will be on the north side of the Courthouse starting around 10 a.m. CST. At 11 a.m., there will be a parade coordinated by LaFayette Fire Department through downtown LaFayette, passing by the west side of the Courthouse.
Joe Louis Barrow Jr. will unveil the statue in a 2 p.m. CST ceremony open to the public on the west side of the courthouse. A large crowd is anticipated.
$10 commemorative tee-shirts, as well as $2 keepsake program booklets, can be purchased in LaFayette at BB&T, Farmers and Merchants Bank, LaFayette Feed and Seed and Pilot Library. In Lanett, they’re available at ZK Recruiters on the square and at the Chamber of Commerce, 2109 S. Broad Ave., and in Valley, at Bradshaw-Chambers County Library. They will also be on sale at each event. Proceeds will go toward continuing projects of the Joe Louis Statue Committee.
“The statue and future projects to extend the ‘Joe Louis experience’ can become a real tourist draw for LaFayette and Chambers County – bringing more visitors to our restaurants, retail locations and hotels,” said Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Elinor Crowder. “This is the first giant step in creating a real birthplace attraction in this area. We look forward to working with the Joe Louis Statue Committee in taking the next steps.”
Coach James Hardy, a longtime fundraising activist with the Joe Louis Statue Committee, noted that, “So much is known about Joe Louis growing up in Detroit that many people don’t realize he was born and spent the first 12 years of his life in LaFayette. We plan to change that with the unveiling of the statue and the surrounding events on this last weekend in February.”
The Joe Louis Statue Committee operates from the LaFayette (Ala.) Public Building Authority, a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(2) organization. The Committee is made up of volunteers committed to promoting LaFayette and Chambers County, Ala., as the birthplace of boxing icon Joe Louis and leveraging the Joe Louis heritage as both a tourism advantage for the area and an emphasis to young people that big success can come from a small town.
The Committee worked tirelessly for several years raising funds for the massive bronze larger-than-life statue of Joe Louis created by noted Alabama sculptor Casey Downing Jr. The Committee plans now extend to other attractions such as a museum and possible training sites for emerging young boxers.