Saturday, November 06, 2010

World's worst sculptor dies at age 96

Controversial jack-of-all-trades, slavery apologist and lousy sculptor, Jack Kershaw, passed away on September 7. He was best known as a defense attorney for James Earl Ray, and author of a conspiracy theory regarding the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Jack Kershaw, Ray was working for a shadowy figure name Raul, the mastermind behind the murder. Kershaw's theory pretty much dissipated after he arranged for Ray to do an interview for Playboy magazine, in preparation for which Ray agreed to a lie detector test [Kershaw's unpublished manuscript on the matter reportedly remains in a "secure location"].

The test indicated Ray was lying when he claimed not to have murdered King. It also indicated he was telling the truth when he denied taking part in a conspiracy. Ray dismissed Kershaw as his attorney after he discovered Kershaw was paid for facilitating the interview. 

Investigator Gary Revel (from left), James Earl Ray, Jack Kershaw, and Ray’s brother Jerry met in 1977. (Associated Press)
Kershaw, a member of the so-called Fugitive Poets of Vanderbilt in the 1920s, later in life became a co-founder of the ridiculous, neo-Confederate "League of the South," a thinly-veiled white-supremacist group dedicated to achieving that which the original Confederate states failed to do in four years of bloody warfare: create an independent nation from states that made up the old southern slavocracy.

Between James Earl Ray and the League of the South, Mr. Kershaw seems to have had a difficult time choosing a good cause to get behind. 

Curiously, everything I could find on-line about Kershaw refers to him as the heir of an Admiral Kershaw, CSA, of South Carolina, but I know of no other high-ranking Kershaw than the famous major general in the Army of Northern Virginia (James). Maybe "Admiral" was a first name, like Senator K. Torvaldson of Lake Wobegon.

Endearing himself to fellow citizens, Kershaw was once quoted by the Times Picayune as saying "Somebody needs to say a good word for slavery. Where in the world are the Negroes better off today than in America?” 

Endearing himself to commuters on I-65 south of Nashville, Kershaw is best known for erecting a nightmarish statue of former Confederate general and KKK Grand Wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest on a private swath of land along the interstate. I made passing reference to the Forrest statue in an early blog entry about Civil War-related roadside attractions. The always entertaining website Roadside America calls the statue "ugly," and "like a cartoon statue." But the best critique I've come across was by one Patrick R. in this entry, May 5, 2008:
"The Nathan Bedford Forrest Memorial, which is beside I-65 South in Brentwood, is probably Nashville's most appalling landmark.  And I'm not only saying that because of the historical and racial implications—it's also aesthetically atrocious. . ." Forrest "is depicted in this statue as a ghastly, screaming dwarf. The horse on which Forrest rides makes the general look like a nine-year-old with a radically contorted face wearing a false beard and a skirt."


James F. Epperson said...

When we used to live in Huntsville, AL, we would drive through Nashville a lot---I cringed every time we went past that monstrosity!

Andy Hall said...

You should put up a warning not to look at the pictures on your blog while eating.

Bonus tacky points for the statue being fiberglass. Metal is sooooo twentieth century.

Eric Wittenberg said...

I described it as looking like a gigantic action figure, David. It is abundantly hideous.

Tim Kent said...

Maybe Forrest was riding a clydesdale. No, seriously, that is one ugly statue. To see an excellent statue of Forrest you need to visit his grave site in Memphis.

Vivi said...

Jack used to be my family and business lawyer back in the 70s. He was a very nice man. He lived on a huge estate that used to be a country club.
His paintings were beautiful. I still have some of his drawings.
Lovely work.
Are you sure this is his? I've only seen his paintings, sketches, and small sculptures.

dw said...


I have seen the Forrest sculpture attributed to him in various articles, as well as in his obituary: