• October 18, 2019

TEXAS VIEW: WTAMU honors tradition with white buffalo sculpture - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: WTAMU honors tradition with white buffalo sculpture

THE POINT: We’re grateful to see this important artwork not just preserved but given its rightful place at the new venue.

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Posted: Friday, September 6, 2019 2:30 am

Tradition should be sacred, and the people of West Texas are serious about their traditions, so that’s just one of several reasons we are glad to see the iconic white buffalo statue moved from its longtime location at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium to the brand-spanking-new Buffalo Stadium that West Texas A&M University will christen Saturday, Sept. 7.

The statue, crafted by Amarillo artist Jack King Hill, will be dedicated during an 11 a.m. ceremony Friday, Sept. 6. The next day the Buffaloes will lift the curtain on their 2019 season with a 6 p.m. home game against Azusa Pacific.

Hill, a sculptor who specialized in Native American culture, went to work on the statue and in 1967, and the result was the 9-foot by 12-foot, 1,800-pound white buffalo statue the artist believed would be the perfect complement to the landscape outside the stadium. Hill was a mechanic for Southwestern Public Service and also a safety coordinator at Nichols Station, but he had a passion for creating art.

“That’s the mascot of the football team. The buffalo is a sacred animal,” his son, King Hill, recalling his father’s thoughts in a story earlier this week about the statue’s history. “And not only does (the hill) need a buffalo, it needs a historic buffalo and it needs to be white because that’s sacred to the Native American.”

As our story pointed out, the white buffalo, which weighs nearly 2,000 pounds, now has a new home on the south entrance at the on-campus stadium.

The senior Hill, who passed away in 2003, created the buffalo statue during a four-month span in his Amarillo backyard. From the original creative vision, he fleshed out the statue first on a sketch pad with trial and error drawings of what the buffalo should look like. He also relied on the local library and the Smithsonian for assistance in bringing the sculpture to life. The white buffalo is one of several important pieces King created. His bust of Quanah Parker is on display at the National Hall of Fame of Famous American Indians in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Once the sculpture was complete, then came the fun part — transporting the massive statue from its neighborhood birthplace to a hill outside the stadium located off a busy stretch of highway running between Amarillo and Canyon.

Originally, the buffalo was unveiled on a flatbed truck on the field during the 1967 homecoming game as it was formally presented to James Cornette, the president at WT then. A few weeks after that, it was anchored outside the stadium, where it has been on display for the past 52 years.

“I’m very grateful that it’s going to be saved and preserved there — eternally grateful,” King Hill said in our story.

Likewise, we’re grateful to see this important artwork not just preserved but given its rightful place at the new venue. The Buffaloes have a long and distinguished athletic tradition, and it says something about the university’s leadership that it was important to recognize the legacy of the past by connecting it to a vision for the future.

When Buffalo Stadium roars to life with a crowd of approximately 9,000 on hand, it will be nice to know the familiar sculpture that has been a steadfast presence at WT football games for so long will still be on hand.

Tradition, after all, should never be underestimated — or underappreciated.

Odessa, TX

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