Kermit Hobson Hawkins called Phenix City his hometown despite only living here for a brief period of his long life. The former Central High graduate returned to Phenix City in July of 1956 to pitch a grand idea for a sculpture, a sculpture of the Old Testament Prophet Moses rising 65 feet above Floyd’s Hill. The sculpture would replace Vulcan in Birmingham as the tallest male statue anywhere. Unfortunately, the project could never raise the $70,000 estimated for its competition.
Hawkins went on to earn recognition as the sculptor for the Ponce de Leon statue at the Interama in North Miami, Fla., in 1957 and for his work in creating 80 percent of the models for toys produced by Marx from 1953-56.
His most known work of art was “The Sheik,” which stood over the entrance to “The Dunes” hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The statue stood 38 feet tall.
Hawkins died on November 8, 1991 in Harbor City, Melbourne, Australia. He moved to the city from Erie, Pennsylvania in 1978. He was a member of Ascension Catholic Church, Melbourne. He was a Marine Corps veteran of World War II. Survivors included: wife, Helen; daughter, Carol, San Antonio, Janice Vineziano, Largo; son, Kermit L., Orlando; one brother; five sisters; nine grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren.
The following is an article that appeared in the Phenix-Girard Journal on July 6, 1956 about his idea for the Moses statue:
Hobson Hawkins Dreams of Moses Statue Towering Over Phenix City
The second tallest statue in the world , may soon tower over Phenix City. Sculptor Hobson Hawkins, who at-I tended school here, wants to erect an 85-foot steel and concrete figure of Moses atop Floyds Hill.
If built, it would top every statue in the world except the Statue of Liberty, which reaches 305 feet from the water-line.
It would replace the statue of Vulcan in Birmingham as the tallest male statue anywhere. Vulcan is 55 feet tall.
The statue would cost about $70,000, Mr. Hawkins estimates, and that is his present problem how to raise that amount.
A former student at Central High School, the 42-year old artist hopes some Phenix City organization - preferably a religious one - will undertake to sponsor the project. However, he does not expect the total sum to he raised locally.
“Phenix City needs schools and other things too bad to ask that,” he says.
But with a proper organization to coordinate fund raising, he believes the sum could he raised statewide. He and his father, G. F. Hawkins of Auburn, planned to confer with Gov. James E. Folsom Thursday. Rep. J. W. (Jabe) Brassell has also expressed an interest in helping on the matter. Mr. Hawkins says the statue of famous giver of the moral law would be a “symbol for the people of this fine city.”
Though Mr. Hawkins was born elsewhere, he spent about six years in Phenix City while a youth and still names it as his hometown.
He also pointed out that such a landmark might prove a mecca for tourists and thus a boon to the city’s hopes for a brighter business and industrial future.
The tall figure would loom high over the city and could be seen for miles at night. It would he lighted by giant floodlights.
The statue of Moses would stand with each hand resting on a stone tablet on which several of the Ten Commandments would lie chiseled.
The immensity of the statue can be shown by a simple comparison. It would take five men, all six feet tall and standing on each other’s shoulders, to reach from the sole of the figures foot to his thigh - roughly 32 feet.
The pedestal on which the statue would stand would be eight feet tall.
An iron rail would run around the edges of the pedestal, allowing sightseers to walk under and about the statue. Now employed by the Marx Toy Co. of Erie, Pa., Mr. Hawkins has taken a leave of absence to execute several sculptural works on his own. He recently completed modeling of “The Sheik,” a 38-foot figure which overlooks Las Vegas newest luxury hotel, “The Dunes.”
If money were available, he estimates it would take about nine months to complete the Phenix City statue.
He has a contract to sculpt a figure of Ponce de Leon, the Spanish explorer, for the Interama at North Miami Beach, Fla., in early 1957.
Mr. Hawkins attended school in Phenix City from 1926 to 1934. He later attended Huntingdon College at Montgomery in 1947-48 when a number of men were admitted to the former all-girls school following World War II.
Though he was an adept carver as a youth - using ordinary white soap - he was more interested in music then.
He sold his first sculpture in 1940. Among his works are life-size carvings of two riveters atop the U. S. Steel Building in Pittsburgh, Pa.
He has been with the toy company, Marx, as a freelance sculptor for the last four years and has carved about 80 per cent of that company’s master toy models from which the thousands of manufactured duplicates are patterned.
Mr. Hawkins and his wife will live at 1110 Jeannette Ave., Columbus, during their current visit of several months. Two sisters live here. They are Mrs. G. J. Kennedy of Phenix City, and Mrs. John C. Day, Columbus.
Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County.