AMES, Iowa – The link between artist and subject cannot be contrived, especially when the subject is already a legend. There would be no such barrier for renowned sculptor Ed Dwight when he was commissioned to make a sculpture of Iowa State football player Jack Trice inside the stadium that bears Trice’s name. As it turns out, Trice and Dwight share a legacy.
Trice, the first African-American football player in Iowa State history, died from injuries suffered in his second varsity game in 1923 at Minnesota. He was a serious student, good player and selfless teammate. In Iowa, Trice did not face the level of racism that was common in the southern U.S. states. Nevertheless, he did not live on campus and daily dealt with institutionalized isolation that made him different from everyone on campus.
“His maturity for 22 years old really impressed me,” Dwight said. “The letter he wrote to himself the night before his last game and his success academically in animal husbandry, you get a sense that this was a serious man. He wanted to go back south to apply what he learned. It shows he was a unique personality.”
Dwight can relate. Dwight was the first African-American to attend Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kan., graduating in 1951. The more he read about Trice the stronger the empathy he had for the only African-American to be the namesake of a stadium in the NCAA FBS.
“As the first African-American at my high school, I was told the things I was going to be able to do and the things that I couldn’t do,” Dwight said. “I know he faced many of the same issues I did, but he did it a generation before I did. He had to be an extraordinary person.”
Dwight went into the Air Force in 1953 before graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University. In 1961, he was chosen by President John F. Kennedy to enter training to become the first black astronaut. Despite his artistic gifts, Dwight did not begin sculpting until being commissioned in 1974 to create a likeness of George Brown, Colorado’s first black Lt. Governor.
Today his works are world famous. The Trice project began in earnest in February. The drive to finish the display made for a very busy last few months for Dwight.
In addition to his experience as an Air Force test pilot and his astronaut training, Dwight has been a successful computer systems engineer, aviation consultant, restauranteur, real estate developer and construction entrepreneur.
One of Dwight’s greatest works is his series of bronzes, “Jazz: An American Art Form. It depicts the evolution of jazz music from Africa to today’s contemporary stars.
The Trice sculpture is a high relief paneled celebration of Trice’s story on the outer back wall of the Jack Trice Club on Jack Trice Stadium’s east concourse. The motif depicts Trice’s high school career at Cleveland’s East Tech High School and his journey to Iowa State with Cyclone head coach Sam Willaman, who had been Trice’s prep coach. A presentation of Trice’s academic pursuits precedes a visual recounting of his fatal injuries and the crowd of 3,000 which attended his funeral by the Iowa State campanile. There is also a depiction of the student support that galvanized the drive to name ISU’s football stadium in Trice’s honor.
“Thousands of people came to this man’s funeral,” Dwight said. “He was far more than a football player.”
Indeed. Trice’s legacy will be noted and celebrated by every Cyclone fan passes this ultimate tribute. Click the links above for a video and photo gallery of the artwork.
Ed Dwight's Official Website: