SACRAMENTO (AP) — A statue of a smiling Gov. Ronald Reagan was revealed Monday in the California State Capitol’s lower rotunda before admiring lawmakers and members of his administration.
The image of the former Republican governor and president is preserved in 800 pounds of bronze and stands nearly 8 feet tall.
Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation authorizing the construction of the Reagan statue in 2012 to the tune of overwhelming bipartisan support. The statue is the culmination of a two-year process, spearheaded by a private foundation after receiving legislative approval.
“He was bigger than life, and we wanted it bigger than life,” said Douglas Van Howd, the statue’s sculptor and Reagan’s appointed White House artist.
Reagan is the only California governor who has gone on to serve as president. He served as governor for two terms, defeating the current governor’s father, Pat Brown, in 1966.
Jerry Brown was elected to his first term in office in 1974 after Reagan decided not to seek a third term.
Reagan’s presence in the Capitol still looms large, especially among state Republicans.
“His principles of freedom, individual liberty and limited government have been my compass,” Republican Assemblyman Scott Wilk of Santa Clara said at the ceremony.
But Reagan, known to be intensely pragmatic, also manages to maintain his appeal among Democrats. While governor, he raised taxes to address a deep budget deficit and enacted California’s broadest environmental protection law to date, Reagan biographer Lou Cannon said.
“Reagan did what is necessary to govern successfully, which is not to let ideology get in the way of what is needed,” he said.
George Shultz, who served for over six years as Reagan’s Secretary of State in Washington and spoke at the ceremony, said Reagan’s legacy holds weight regardless of political affiliation because his ideas worked.
“Here was a political leader who could see what needed to be done strategically and had the courage to see it through,” said Shultz, noting Reagan’s strong presidential record on cutting rampant inflation and negotiating arms reduction treaties amid the Cold War.
An exact model of Van Howd’s statue will also be installed at Reagan’s presidential library in Ventura County.