GETTYSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As statues dedicated to Civil War Confederate figures are taken down across the country, a new one is now up in Gettysburg that honors an iconic figure in Pennsylvania’s history who fought for equality after the war.
Former Pennsylvania congressman Thaddeus Stevens made history for his work during and after the Civil War. The man who created his statue is making history in his own way.
This monument to history has been seven years in the making.
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“That’s when we first started fundraising,” Ross Hetrick, president of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, said. Hetrick said it took years and a generous donation to raise the $50,000 needed for the statue.
The statue of Thaddeus Stevens was unveiled at a Saturday celebration in Gettysburg.
In his time in Congress, Stevens introduced and helped pass the 14th amendment, which provides equal protection under the law and extended freedoms in the Bill of Rights to the individual states. He also owned a stop on the Underground Railroad.
“Dramatically transformed the way the United States worked,” Hetrick said.
The Thaddeus Stevens Society commissioned the statue. Hetrick said they conducted a nationwide search for an artist.
“I never learned about him in history classes,” artist Alex Paul Loza said.
Two and a half years ago, Loza, who lives in Tennessee, saw a call for artists online. As he read more about Stevens, he wanted to get involved.
“I want to capture his persona, like what he was really standing for,” Loza said.
Loza submitted his proposal and a model, designing a sculpture he said came from the heart.
“Putting the head to the right meant he’s listening,” Loza said, explaining his design. “Always listening to the people so he can fight for them.”
A few months later, he got the job.
“I was just in shock,” he said.
Hetrick said out of 20 entries, Loza’s easily stood out.
“He actually really captured the spirit of Thaddeus Stevens,” he said.
Loza is now the first Latino artist to have public artwork in Gettysburg. He hopes it is a sign to his community — and his two daughters, who helped him create the statue.
“My youngest was, you can see probably her fingerprints around the sculpture, and I want them to know that anything is possible,” Loza said.
Loza and Hetrick said they hope the statue and story of Thaddeus Stevens move people to action.
“He is so inspirational that shows what one person can do with determination,” Hetrick said.
Loza said, “Fight for the equality that he fought for 100 and some years ago.”
Hetrick said they named the sculpture “Men in pursuit of justice must never despair,” a quote *from Thaddeus Stevens himself. The statue now stands in front of the Adams County Courthouse, along with a sign detailing Stevens’ impact on Pennsylvania and the country.