Charlie Wilson
Former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson speaks at the Annual Dinner of the White House Correspondents' Association in Washington, D.C., in this April 2008 file photo.

The Charles Wilson VA Outpatient Clinic plans to unveil a 10-foot tall statue in honor of the former Congressman next week.

The “Standing Tall with Charlie Wilson” statue by artist David Adickes will tower over the main entrance of the clinic named for Wilson by Congress in 2004,  according to a press release.

Charles “Charlie” Nesbitt Wilson, 76, died Feb. 10, 2010, after suffering cardiopulmonary arrest. He served 12 terms as a U.S. House of Representatives member from Lufkin, helping to secure millions of dollars for facilities and services in the 2nd Congressional District of Texas.

His friend Buddy Temple was with him at the time of his death. Now, nearly a year later, Temple said, Wilson would be honored by the statue.

“Charlie Wilson was my best friend for 45 years, so it means the world to me,” Temple said. “Now I can go over there and look up at him any time. It’s a wonderful tribute.”

Temple said the man who fought so diligently for veterans’ rights during his time in Congress would appreciate the monument.

“He’d probably like it, to tell you the truth,” Temple said. “He loved the work of the VA and the veterans so much. Charlie had so much respect for veterans. They were so near and dear to him. For him to be looking over that work 24 hours a day would be neat to him.”

Local attorney Claude E. Welch and former Wilson aide Peyton Walters spearheaded a fundraiser to raise money for the sculpture, and the T.L.L. Temple Foundation matched local fundraising efforts to pay for the statue, Temple said. Contributions from family and friends of Wilson, as well as the matched donation from the foundation, totalled $48,500, Welch said.

“It was not a mass solicitation,” Welch said. “It was for Charlie. I knew from day one that we wouldn’t have one minute’s problem raising the money. Everyone was eager to contribute.”

The decision to chose Adickes as the sculpture for the project came before Welch got on board, but he said it was a no-brainer.

Adickes is a sculptor from Houston whose work includes the 67-foot-tall Sam Houston at Huntsville, an 8-foot bronze statue of former President George H. W. Bush in the Bush International Airport in Houston, and the 36-foot-tall cellist at Houston’s Lyric Centre, according to the release.

Adickes came out of retirement to complete the monument of Wilson.

“We chose him because of his reputation and expertise,” Welch said. “We didn’t think he would do it because he had announced sometime back that he was retiring from doing the big statues. But, he readily and willingly said he would do the one of Charlie. He said Charlie was a personal hero of his.”

In fact, Wilson and Adickes had met in Williamsburg, Va., at the artist’s presidential park, Walters said, as well as the Sam Houston statue monument.

David wanted to do a sculpture of Charlie as he got to know him more and got into the  family,” Walters said. “If anyone has credit for idea (of creature the sculpture), it the sculptor himself. I think Charlie would be delighted. He was a such a larger-than-life person.”

The dedication ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 12.

“We’re proud to further honor Charlie,” Welch said. “He is always going to be favorite around here. Now with him standing tall outside the clinic, it makes us all feel good. We have an empty space in our heart for him, but now we’ll be able to take a drive and look up at him. It’s sentimental for all of us.”

Melissa Crager’s e-mail address is mcrager@lufkindailynews.com.