Daniel Chester French, 1924
James Woods Green (1842-1919) was the first head of the KU Department of Law and the first dean when it became the School of Law in 1889; he served from 1878 until his death Nov. 4, 1919. A group of alumni and friends quickly formed an association to create a statue in memory of the beloved teacher and mentor.
When the World War I Memorial Committee was incorporated in 1921 to raise funds for various projects, the statue was selected as one of them. Other projects funded by the “Million Dollar Drive” were Memorial Stadium, dedicated Nov. 11, 1922; and the Kansas Union, begun in 1926 and completed in 1938.
Members of the Green memorial association campaigned to commission Daniel Chester French, the noted New York sculptor whose most famous work is the massive seated statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. French declined at least one request but finally acceded after further pleas and a visit to the campus and town, where he was inundated with expressions of esteem and affection for Green. French reportedly said he had “never seen such love for a man — unless it be in the case of Abraham Lincoln.”
French designed a memorial depicting Green, dressed in a morning coat, with his right arm on the shoulder of a young man wearing a KU letter sweater and jacket, his trousers tucked into lace-up boots. French made this modeling choice to avoid four legs in long trousers, he said; he had no knowledge of the traditional rivalry between KU law and engineering students, who typically wore such boots. French’s fee was $40,000; of that sum, $33,000 came from the Million Dollar Drive, the rest from private funds.
Dedicated June 9, 1924, as the Dean James Woods Green Memorial, the bronze statues are 7 feet 7 inches tall and were cast by Anton Kunst Foundry of New York; the marble pedestal and bench were designed by French’s associate Henry Bacon and constructed by Piccirilli Brothers of New York.
When the new Green Hall opened west of Naismith Drive and 15th Street in 1977, the decision was made to leave the statue on Jayhawk Boulevard. It was part of the hall’s National Register of Historic Places designation of 1974, and concerns were expressed about the risks of separating and moving the statue and pedestal.