NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches' newest statue was unveiled today. It depicts a courageous pioneer family heading west on the El Camino Real. The monument also symbolizes the spirit of the man who made it all possible.
Charles Bright, a local philanthropist, is approaching 86. Failing health has robbed him, so his love for the oldest town in Texas is now expressed through the work he pioneered.
"Today what we're doing is unveiling a statue that he's dreamed about for many years that would show people that Nacogdoches was the gateway to Texas," Bill Earley, the president of the Charles and Lois Marie Bright Foundation, said.
The bronze monument honors the pioneers who passed this way, and it was donated by the Charles and Lois Marie Bright Foundation.
"They started coming near 1790, and by the 1800's, they were flooding across the Sabine and into East Texas," Dr. Ab Abernathy, a historian, said.
Bright and his beloved wife Lois Marie chose to stay in the Pineywoods. The Bright Coop founder cared for his wife until 2006, when she died of ALS.
He's remarried to Carolyn Price Bright, who with family and friends, guards her husband's dignity.
When asked if she thought her husband was a pioneer, Carolyn Price Bright said, "Yes, definitely." Then, she elaborated even further by saying, "He was an extreme encourager."
Joyce Swearingen, Charles Bright's sister, said the city of Nacogdoches owes him great deal.
"The first thing he did was remodel his building, my daddy's store, and from then on the square and everything took place," Swearingen said. "I think we owe him a lot."
Nacogdoches sculptor Mike Boyett began the project three years ago with a drawing that had to meet Bright's approval.
"And I took it to him," sculptor Mike Boyett said. "I said, 'What do you think?'. He said, 'I like it,' but he said, 'It needs a dog,' so I went back and took the same drawing and put a dog on it. He said,' that's it.' "
The sculptor made it a family affair, beginning with his daughter, who posed for the woman's face.
Arlen Hill, Mike Boyett's daughter explained that it was her face "on my sister in law's body on my husband's horse and my nephew's body, with my brother's body and my mom's dog."
"I posed for it three or four hours," Clint Boyett, Mike Boyett's grandson said.
"I asked granddad to put a frog on the sculpture," Nathan Boyett, another of the sculptor's grandsons said.
There's also a pine cone, a lace petticoat, a crochet shawl, and the determined looks by both animal and man. It's the kind of detail Charles Bright would like in his honor to Nacogdoches and the spirit of Texas.
The Gateway Statue sits outside the Convention and Visitors Bureau right on Highway 21, or the El Camino Real. In about a week it will be lit at night.