Happy Birthday Jesus!
Since 1966, an astounding statue of Jesus Christ has looked out over our beautiful home - Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The irony of this story is that this statue, this symbol of love and hope, was conceived and initiated by Gerald L.K. Smith (1898-1976) who was a notorious bigot, religious and political leader and who was active during the Great Depression and World War II.
Smith was a one-time leader in Senator Huey Long's "Share Our Wealth" campaign and ran for president on independent tickets during the 1940s and 1950s three times. He was an opponent of President Franklin Roosevelt and he was also a major opponent of the Alaska Mental Health Bill of 1955, a Congressional measure that many anti-Communists believed could lead to the creation of an American concentration camp in Alaska.
In the first full-length biography of evangelist Smith, Gerald L. K. Smith: Minister of Hate writer Glen Jeansonne traces the tempestuous career of this notorious bigot. A spellbinding speaker and brilliant organizer, Smith founded the reactionary hate sheet The Cross and the Flag as well as the anti-Semitic Christian Nationalist Crusade.
Exhaustively researched, Jeansonne's study contains information from Smith's FBI dossier, his personal papers, and Smith himself. Also included are compelling arguments concerning the causes of anti-Semitism in America, the role of demagogues, and the mentality of their loyal supporters.
Later in his life, after Smith moved to Eureka Springs, he visualized the building of a religious amusement park atop Magnetic Mountain. He also conceived the Christ of the Ozarks statue as a centerpiece for his planned park. While Smith died in 1976 and his amusement park dream was never fully realized, his astounding statue of Jesus Christ on the mountaintop has become one of the most visited attractions here in Eureka Springs.
Smith and his wife are buried at the foot of the Christ of the Ozarks, overlooking the valley and city of Eureka Springs. He was a major figure in bringing the economically depressed city back to life as a tourist destination during the 1960s with one of the most popular live performances in the South. Please read my blog-post, entitled, Masking bias, which gets into more detail about Smith's political prominence and his bigotry.
Completed in 1966 by the Elna M. Smith Foundation, the statue was sculpted by Emmet Sullivan, who was also noted as one of the sculptors of the massive Presidential artwork at Mount Rushmore. The top of the statue soars some 1,500 feet above sea level (67 feet above the top of Magnetic Mountain) and its width, from fingertip to fingertip is 65 feet. It is one of the tallest statues in both the United States and the world.
The Christ of the Ozarks statue remains in the same position since it was first erected; nestled among the trees on the grounds of Eureka Spring's acclaimed Outdoor Drama - The Great Passion Play.
The Great Passion Play right here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is "America's Number One Attended Outdoor Drama" according to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre and Drama of East Carolina University at Greenville.
Other points of interest on the grounds, apart from Christ Of The Ozarks statue include a section of the Berlin Wall, the Bible Museum, the Holy Land Tour, the Museum of History and, of course, the Great Passion Play itself.
The statue and grounds are open to the public 24 hours a day and during the month of December there is a nativity scene set-up as well as hundreds of lights in the trees. A wonderful drive or walk-about experience for the whole family. Merry Christmas To You And Yours From Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Happy Birthday Jesus!