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For Release: March 24, 2004
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Clyde moves to Student Union, after keeping watch over students many years

After more than 40 years on the campus of Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, some people would think it is time to let go.

But, not Clyde.

He’s very unique. After all, he’s been charged with “keeping watch over the students” in two centers of student activity. First, he was placed in Wilson Hall and, most recently, in the Reng Center.

Clyde is very special to the ASU campus, as many alumni can attest. As the years have come and gone, he’s been more special to certain groups of students than others.

He is a symbol of tradition inspired through the hearts and minds of a few individuals back in 1958.

Clyde is a 1,000 pound Carrara Marble statue from Italy of an intricately sculpted Native American Indian chief. He will be moved in grand style to the new 92,000 sq. ft. Student Union at 11:30 a.m. today (March 22). 

The ASU history books, yearbooks and even the campus newspaper archives are filled with memorable accounts and photos of Clyde as he stood watch over the students through the years.

According to accounts taken from these books, Clyde was purchased in 1958 by the Student Government Association (SGA) for $1,200.

The statue became affectionately named by students as Clyde, because he was purchased through Clyde Spence Monument Co. of Jonesboro. Clyde Spence Monument Co. was a forerunner to Bookout Monument Co., formerly owned by State Senator Jerry Bookout of Jonesboro.

A December 1958 story in “The Herald,” read: “An Indian Chief, life size and majestic, stands ready to defend ASC (Arkansas State College in those days)… The Indian Chief is a symbol of courage, strength and alertness. His place in American History is unparalleled and his spirited defense of his home country lives in numerous legends repeated by Americans from coast to coast.”

Shortly after arriving on the ASU campus, it became tradition for freshmen to “tip their beanies” as they passed Clyde. In those days and until 1970, freshmen were required to wear red and black beanies on their heads.

Those students who did not “tip their hat” were required (if caught by upper level students) to “kiss the feet” of the 7.5-foot chief. Obviously, Clyde quickly became the hub of many jokes and much laughter as upper level students delighted in the activity.

Tommy Runnels of Bentonville, an ASU alumnus and 1969 freshman, recalled being required to recite the “beanie poem.” He can still recite it to this day.

“Because I’m a freshman at ASU, a beautiful beanie they’ve given to me. I wear it atop my young pointed head and tip it to Clyde when before him I tread. Without it I know I must never be caught, or else to the head of the class I’ll be brought….Although, I’m a freshman and green as can be, I know that there still is some hope left for me. For someday perhaps, I will gain the finesse of a true upperclassman - alert and beanieless,” Runnels recalled.

Carolyn Kerner Fowler of Jonesboro, an ASU alumna recalled, “In the fall of 1970, Clyde was in the main hall of the Carl R. Reng Center. I was a freshman then and we had to wear those beanies. If you were in the Reng Center and caught not wearing your beanie, an upper classman made you kiss Clyde’s feet. How’s that for spreading germs?”     

  Dr. Ray Hall of Jonesboro, a 1967 alumnus of ASU, recalled the freshmen antics as well. “Freshmen had to pay reverence to Clyde, tipping our hats. College life was so different back then. There were only 5,000 students and everyone knew everyone,” he said.

After 1970, freshmen at ASU were no longer required to wear to the famed beanies. Although, the ASU Marching Band continued the tradition for many years with their freshmen in the Music Department. Many students from the mid-1970s until today don’t know stories associated with Clyde. Many students don’t even recall where he is located.

“Clyde is the result of a few students getting together to get a mascot on campus. Clyde’s inception was small – like a lot of things. The driving force back in those days, and still is, the SGA. The SGA contacted Clyde and Helen Spence (former owners of the monument company),” Jerry Bookout recalled.

“Clyde and Helen Spence really wanted this statue -- this piece of sculpted marble -- to be just right. She worried and fretted about it so. From the time the students approached them about the Indian Chief until it arrived in Jonesboro, Mrs. Spence spent many sleepless nights wondering if it would be something the campus would be proud to have,” Bookout said.

Members of the Art Department at ASU designed the Indian Chief and through personal contacts of Clyde and Helen Spence, the design was sent to Italy to be sculpted.

Bookout, an alumnus of ASU, spent a few years in the Army prior to operating Spence Monument Co., which became Spence-Bookout Monument Co. and ultimately Bookout Monument until the family sold it several years ago.

“The Spences worked with us for nearly three years. They always talked about the Indian Chief. Mrs. Spence was particularly proud of it and working with students of the time. The design, purchase of the marble, sculpting, transportation and erecting was a huge undertaking,” he said.

After much discussion with campus officials, Bookout supervised the transportation and placement of the statue in 1959. “Arlis Johnson called me and asked if would take charge of making sure the Indian Chief statue was erected properly. And, I said, well, Arlis, I don’t know.”

“But, in the end, I agreed and brought all of our equipment and ASU provided the labor. I was mighty relieved when it was moved. It is not that easy to move 1,000 pounds of marble,” Bookout said.

“There is a family secret about the statue. You know, since the design was sent to Italy to be sculpted, it has certain attributes from Italy. If you look carefully, if you look into his face – you see Italian features. He’s probably the only Italian Indian statue in existence,” Bookout added.

Retired faculty member, Bob Ferralasco, recalled a similar story from Robert Moore, dean of students at the time. “The story goes that when Dean Moore saw the statue, he said, ‘it doesn’t look like an Indian, it looks like an Italian’.”

Whatever the original intent of Clyde, he remains on campus and will be proudly displayed in the new Student Union. The Native American Indian Chief statue will once again serve in an admirable capacity as an example of strength, courage and alertness.

The ASU mascot is a trio of Indian-attired students popularly known as the Indian Family. The Indian Family consists of Chief Big Track, an unnamed princess and an unnamed brave. In 1996, members of the Athletic Department, Alumni Relations, the SGA and former Indian family members joined together to begin tryouts for the Indian Family.

In addition, the group visited with and received a vote of approval from a group representing the Cherokee nations as well as other Native Americans about authentic dances, symbols and costumes, etc.

The Indian Family, ASU’s official mascot, represents the university and its athletic programs in a stately and dignified manner befiting the Indian tribes who once lived in the area. The Indian Family is selected by a campus committee through tryouts which consist of interviews, horsemanship, appearance, attitude, school activities and academics. The family represents ASU not only at athletic events, but at other campus functions as well as the community.

Grand opening festivities for the Student Union will take place for ASU students on Tuesday, March 23, at noon -- complete with a cookout and the stomp band, “Recycled Percussion” in the courtyard. Other grand opening festivities and the Open House for the community will take place on Wednesday, March 24, beginning at 11 a.m.

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