Judge Baylor statue on Founders Mall turns 75
Three-quarters of a century ago, the talents of two very different and very gifted men, born 77 years apart, crossed paths in Waco and produced perhaps the iconic image of Baylor University.
Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor was born in Kentucky in 1793 and later emigrated to the Republic of Texas to become, as every Baylor Bear knows, a judge, before co-founding Baylor University. Pompeo Coppini was born in Italy in 1870, emigrated to the United States and began sculpting in New York City before moving to Texas, where his career really took off. Even if you don’t know Coppini’s name, you know his work.
Seventy-five years ago — Feb. 1, 1939 — Coppini’s statue of Judge Baylor was unveiled at the edge of Founders Mall, and the venerable old judge has been watching over the campus that bears his name (and stoically posing for pictures) ever since. Coppini, seen here posing next to his work, completed the work in San Antonio with the funds from a $15,000 federal grant.
The statue, which together with Pat Neff Hall adorns Baylor’s official symbol, is not Coppini’s only mark on campus. In 1903, he designed another lasting Baylor image, the statue of Rufus Burleson, and he was honored by Baylor with an honorary doctorate of fine arts in 1941.
You can also find Coppini’s sculptures outside the Alamo (the “Spirit of Sacrifice” monument on Alamo Plaza) and on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. But it’s his statue of Baylor’s co-founder, unveiled on the university’s 94th birthday, that ensures that the likeness of one of the nation’s great jurists, statesmen and educators will live on throughout the ways of time.
Sic ’em, Judge Baylor and Pompeo Coppini!