The Bonham Trophy will be unveiled Thursday in a ceremony before the Aggies game against the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
Kickoff is 5 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Gov. Rick Perry, a graduate of Texas A&M, got the idea for the trophy last season and approached Whistle Pik Galleries of Fredericksburg about locating a Texas artist to sculpt the statue.
Whistle Pik contacted one of its artists, Jeff Gottfried, who grew up in Keene and now lives across the road from the Liberty Chapel Volunteer Fire Department south of Cleburne.
Gov. Rick Perry displays The Bonham Trophy that will be unveiled Thursday night before the football game between Texas A&M and the University of South Carolina at Columbia, S.C. With Perry are the sculptor, Keene native Jeff Gottfried, his wife, Loren, and their son, Clayton, at the Governor s Mansion Friday in Austin. (Courtesy Jessica Taylor)
“Whistle Pik called me a couple of days before Christmas requesting I prepare a rough draft to present to the governor after the first of the new year,” Gottfried said. “I was excited and frantic. I shut myself in my studio during the holidays and worked on it.”
The subject of the trophy is South Carolina native James Butler Bonham, who attended the University of South Carolina, later earned a law degree and was the messenger who, in 1836, rode into the Alamo and the hearts of all Texans when he delivered the message to Travis that reinforcements would not arrive in time.
“Bonham sat on his horse on a hill overlooking the Alamo and could see the Mexican Army surrounding the Alamo,” Gottfried said.
“He knew if he rode through the army lines he would be riding to his death, but he had given Travis his word that he would return. He galloped through enemy fire and could feel bullets hitting his horse. They threw the gates open and he dashed into the Alamo, his horse dying at his feet as he jumped off to tell Travis the news.
“That's why Bonham is the perfect choice for the trophy because he is honorable, brave and represents the best from both states and what America stands for,” Gottfried said.
A plaque on the trophy is inscribed “The Bonham Trophy, Sculpted by Jeff Gottfried.”
The inscription reads, “The Bonham Trophy represents the bond forged by a son of South Carolina who gave his life for Texas. The trophy, awarded each year to the winner of the Southeastern Conference Football Game between Texas A&M and the University of South Carolina, will be an eternal reminder of this bond.”
(About) James Butler Bonham, the inscription continues.
“A University of South Carolina-educated lawyer was born February 20, 1807, in the Edgefield District that is now Slauda County, S.C.
“On March 3, 1836, during the siege of the Alamo, Bonham, a childhood friend of Col. Travis, braved intense fire from enemy troops to return to the Alamo and deliver the message that reinforcements would not make it in time. Despite urging from General Houston to remain, Bonham explained he was a 'man of his word' and compelled to return to his comrades at the Alamo. Three days after his return, the Alamo fell and Bonham fell at his post along with the rest of the defenders in the name of Liberty and Freedom.”
The inscription states the plaque was, “Dedicated August 28, 2014.”
The inscription concludes with an explanation of why the trophy is presented.
“This trophy was initiated in 2014 by Governors Rick Perry of Texas and Nikki Haley of South Carolina as a symbol of the friendly competition between the two states exemplifying both the success it brings to each state and the productivity it adds to benefit of the entire country.”
Researching Bonham for the statue was difficult because Gottfried did not have any photos to work from, he said.
“There are no photographs of Bonham, so I had to work off of photos of relatives to determine his facial features,” Gottfried said.
Bonham had the best horse in the region, Gottfried said.
“It was probably 16 hands high and Bonham was about 6-foot-2, so I had to calculate the proportions of both horse and rider to make the statue accurate,” Gottfried said.
Researching the saddle was also difficult.
“The saddle was hard to do because there is not a lot of information on pre-Civil War saddles,” Gottfried said. “In fact, Cowboys weren't even around yet. He probably had an English-type saddle from back east. He had a Hawken 54 rifle and I had to do serious research to determine if it was a flintlock or a cap-and-ball style.”
Gottfried found research assistance by talking to experts in the field, most of whom recommended he speak with Richard Peterson, a South Carolina historian.
“Researching the details took longer than sculpting,” Gottfried said.
The trophy was delivered Friday to Perry's office.
“The governor was pleased with the trophy and spent about 45 minutes with us,” said Gottfried, who was accompanied by his wife, Loren, and son, Clayton, 8, for the meeting with Perry.
Peterson is attempting to arrange for the trophy to be displayed at the Alamo, but Gottfried wasn't sure if it would be housed there or kept by the winning school.
The trophy is scheduled to be unveiled Thursday night.
“This is my highest profile commission to date,” Gottfried said.
His other commissions include “In God's Hands,” a life-size statue at the entrance to Texas Health Huguley Hospital, “Jesus the Good Shepherd,” at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Colleyville, “Jesus and Health Care,” a sculpture of Jesus at the Central Texas Medical Center in San Marcos, and “Freedom Train,” a 29-foot-long wall relief that depicts the history of African-Americans in the railroad in Fort Worth. It is on display at the Texas & Pacific Lofts in downtown Fort Worth.
Gottfried is currently working on a statue of Gen. Pat Cleburne for the city of Cleburne, and on sculptures of first responders for the Honor Memorial at Winston Patrick McGregor Park in Cleburne.
“I enjoy being a part of projects that mean something, that honor people who are honorable, and pay tribute to my Christian beliefs,” Gottfried said.
Gottfried, who has master's degree in education, is also the art teacher at two elementary campuses at Glen Rose ISD.
“I left education to go into sculpting, but when the recession hit in 2008, my art quit selling and God blessed me with the position in Glen Rose,” Gottfried said. “Then, a couple of years ago, the phone started ringing again and I am back to spending more and more time in the studio.”
Gottfried's website is www.artistinbronze.com.