The Inspiration

Oliver LaGrone (December 9, 1906 – October 15, 1995) was an African-American sculptor, poet, educator, and humanitarian. His life was the intersection of art, advocacy, and education and the LaGrone Scholarship honors his commitment to it by investing time and money in the potential of young people in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For over 30 years, the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg has grown the scholarship that directly impacts the lives and futures of students in the Harrisburg City School District.

More about Oliver LaGrone

LaGrone Sculptures at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg

What, When, and Where

LaGrone Sculptures
Oliver LaGrone 1906-1995

*Photos of sculptures noted by check are available at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg

Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment *
Created in New Mexico
Black 1934 Pinyon pine Washington state, held by Mark Robinson Levy, purchased at CA flea market Purchased years after creation, by Dr. Ralston A. Mitchel for Detroit NAACP
Pinyon Tree   Wood   Purchased by Albuquerque National Bank  
Bust of Calvin Coolidge 1934     1872-1933; 30th U.S. President, 1923-1929; sculpture referenced in Ernie Pyle’s nationally syndicated column  
Mercy 1937 Original for Hot Springs NM children’s hospital in plaster, bronze patina.  Cast bronze, 1991 for UNM hospitals;Cast bronze, 1995 for art museum ;48” h x 27’ d University of New Mexico Hospitals, children’s wing, inpatient lobby, Albuquerque; second casting in outdoor sculpture garden of Albuquerque Museum of Art and History Created under grant from federal Works Progress Administration, for Carrie Tingley Crippled Children’s Hospitals in Hot Springs, NM; moved to Albuquerque when hospital closed 
Small Madonna Abt 1938        
Created in Michigan
Bust of R.J. Thomas Abt 1946     Commissioned by United Auto Workers union, which paid for bronze casting, but not for LaGrone’s creative work; Thomas lost the union presidency to challenger Walter Reuther  
Bust of George Washington Carver 1950 Plaster, bronze patina Gifted to Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, 1973 Created for G.W. Carver Public School in Oakdale Gardens, Detroit
Bust of Fredrick Douglass Abt 1952 Cast bronze by 1973 Great-grandson Brandon Smith, Michigan Plaster maquette 6” h; inspired for National Negro Labor Council, 1950-55  
Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment  
Created in Michigan
Three Youngsters Abt 1952 Plaster, bas relief      
Oedipus Reckless 1955 Mahogany; 30” h    
The Dancer 1958 Cast bronze, 22” h Rick Robinson, Highland Park, MI; LaGrone Cultural  Arts Center, PSU Harrisburg; PSU Scranton;  City Hall, City of Harrisburg; Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, MI; gifted by LaGrone to Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, Chicago; perhaps Howard University  Inspired by Dr. Pearl Primus, 1915-1964, noted African-American dancer and anthropologist; Penn State Hbg copy stolen, recasting done with help of LaGrone’s daughter Lotus Joy Johnson; on display in LaGrone Cultural Arts Center in Olmsted Building there
Bust of Charles Adams Hill, Sr. 1961 Cast bronze, 16” h Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, Detroit 1893-1970; Baptist minister; civil rights and labor issues activist, Detroit
Head of Hobart LaGrone       Oliver’s older brother  
Head of Langston Hughes 1964 Plaster, bronze patina Schomburg Center, NYC Library in Haarlem 1902-1967; By appointment with Arts and Artifacts Division; from poet Langston Hughes’ estate
Father and Son 1967 Alabaster, 18” h      
Bust of Judge George Crockett, Jr.

About 1969 Cast bronze Sold to Littlejohn, Michigan; Wayne State University Law School 1909-1977; Civil rights warrior:  lawyer, judge, U.S. Congressman from Detroit
Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment  
Likely created in Michigan
When Aretha Sings! About 1972 Duo piece:  white marble and cast bronze   1942-2018; ‘Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul’:  singer, songwriter, civil rights activist
Bust of Judge Wade McCree, Jr. Before 1974     1920-1987; First African-American appointed U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the 6th Circuit; later discredited himself through inappropriate behavior  
“Ain’t I a Woman?”: Sojourner Defies the Hecklers Before 1974   originally Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, Michigan; today Benjamin Grant of Diversified Metals, Monson MA 1797-1883; LaGrone wrote a poem about Sojourner Truth (abolitionist and women’s rights activist) “Preaching Through the Land”, found in his poetry volume Footfalls
Bust of Sojourner Truth Before 1974   Roy Lee Robinson, Sparta MI    
Look at My ???[text blurred] Before 1974   Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, Michigan    
Hands—Stages of Life Before 1974 Plaster, bronze patina Perkins, Michigan    
Woman Wringing Shirts Before 1974 Honduras mahogany, 12” h Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, Michigan    
Black Resolve Before 1974 African mahogany, 48” h Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, Michigan    
Woman Combing Hair

Before 1974 African mahogany; 44” h Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Keats, Michigan    
Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment  
Created in Pennsylvania
Heritage 1972 Honduras mahogany      
Bust of Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Dorsey About 1973 Cast bronze National Gospel Choirs of America, Chicago 1879-1933; Father of modern black gospel music
Philosopher 1974 Honduras mahogany; 12” h Dr. and Mrs. John Chavis, Michigan    
University as Family 1975 Cast bronze; smaller version – 28” h, 12” w, 8” d – cast 1993 Large:  PSU Worthington-Scranton, library lawn; Small:  PSU Harrisburg, Rowland sculpture garden behind Olmstead Building Scranton installation, 1975; Harrisburg installation 1993, Rowland Sculpture aGarden behind Olmsted Building
Ballet to Disco 1979 Cast bronze; two moveable, complementary figures Unitarian Church of Harrisburg Gifted by Lowery and Marilyn McHenry, 1999
Mask 1980 Plaster, bronze patina; 17” h Unitarian Church of Harrisburg Gifted by Dr. Paul and Lydia Fritz, 2016
Head Study for Bust of Paul Robeson About 1985 Plaster, bronze patina Don and Joyce Hoskins (daughter Julie Hoskins) Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania  
Bust of Paul Robeson About 1985 Cast bronze Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Student Union, PSU University Park 1898-1976; Commissioned by PSU Alumni Association; LaGrone’s “Lines to the Black Oak” dedicated to Robeson, in New Black Faces
Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment  
Created in Pennsylvania
Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Before 1986 Cast bronze Bronze:  State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Reserve #86.45 1929-1968; minister and civil rights activist, assassinated; Gifted by Harrisburg MLK Committee 
Untitled (Joseph’s Many-Colored Coat of Dreams) 1987 Honduras mahogany      
Bust of Dr. Carter G. Woodson 1987 Plaster, bronze patina LaGrone Cultural Arts Center, PSU Harrisburg 1875-1950; Gifted by Joy LaGrone Johnson on dedication of the Center, 1998
Bust of Harriet Tubman 1987 Cast bronze LaGrone Cultural Arts Center, PSU Harrisburg; Unitarian Church of Harrisburg 1822-1913; born enslaved in Maryland; escaped, then, over thirteen trips, secretly led to freedom approximately seventy family members and friends 
Arms Around the Children 1990 Maquettes only, of central and surrounding figures   Commissioned by Save Our Sons and Daughters, intended for Hope, Unity & Giving Memorial for then-planned sculpture garden, Belle Isle Park, Detroit, Michigan, now a state park
Created in Michigan
Bust of Rosa Park About 1994 Clay possibly in-process at LaGrone’s death in 1995; Parks and LaGrone were friends 1913-2005; Montgomery, Alabama civil rights activist who had moved to Detroit in 1957  
Sculpture Year  Medium & Size Current Location Comment  
Creation site documentation not available
American Lung Association plaque   Cast stone, relief   May have been initiated by Dr. Ethelene Jones, daughter of judge and congressman, George Crockett, Jr.  
Bust of Albert Schweitzer   Plaster, 16” h; cast bronze by 1973   1875-1965; theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, physician; founded and sustained hospital in Gabon, Africa  
Bust of Charles Waddell Chesnutt   Black & white   1858-1932; lawyer, political activist; First African-American novelist to receive professional recognition  
Bust of Lionel Hampton       1908-2002; jazz percussionist and band leader; LaGrone also wrote “To Lionel”  
Bust of Nelson Mandela   Clay   1918-2013; lawyer, jailed for Black advocacyt; first Black president of South Africa  
Fire, Water, Earth & Air   Cast stone, relief      
Heritage Road Medallion   Cast stone, relief   Hamilton Mint anticipated as producer  
Men Shaping Elements   Cast bronze, 14’ h      
Phoenix     Brandon Smith, Michigan; great-grandson  
Portrait of Young Artist    Cast stone? 14” h       
This compilation uniquely created for the Oliver LaGrone Scholarship Program of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg from “Time Walker” master’s thesis on LaGrone, news articles, LaGrone memorabilia and personal correspondence sources.

Cordell Affeldt, November 1999; March, 2013; December, 2019; February 2022; March 2023