by Murrel Bland
Ed Dwight Jr. was working as an apartment builder-developer in Denver, Colo., in the 1970s. He gathered the discarded metal materials from construction sites and created sculpture pieces for his own use.
Dwight’s creative works caught the attention of George Brown, who was the first black lieutenant governor of Colorado. Brown encouraged Dwight to create sculpture pieces that would tell the true story of black people. But first, Brown insisted that Dwight read several books on black history.
Dwight told his life story at a special Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 9, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo. About 150 persons attended.
Dwight was born on Sept. 9, 1933, in Kansas City, Kansas, the son of Ed Sr. and Georgia Dwight. In 1951, Ed Jr. was the first black person to graduate from Bishop Ward High School. He graduated in 1953 from what is now Kansas City Kansas Community College. He earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Arizona State University, Tempe.
Dwight served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot and was chosen for astronaut training in 1962. He was the co-founder of the Jet Training School in Denver in 1967.
Dwight decided to turn his hobby of sculpting into a profession. He opened a studio in 1974; his first project was of George Brown.
Dwight has created more than 100 public art sculptures; his works include that of Hank Aaron and Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta; six jazz figures at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History; and a bi-national monument in Detroit, Mich., and Windsor, Ontario, dedicated to the Underground Railroad.
One of his more recent works is the Texas African-American History Memorial in Austin.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press.