=McMINNVILLE —There are two sides to this thriving Willamette Valley city, and they are as easy to see as a pair of bronze sculptures.
=One of them honors a venerated football coach, Paul Durham. The other depicts an American founding father, Benjamin Franklin.
=The figure of Durham, who also served as Linfield College’s athletic director from 1948 to 1968, stands outside the entrance to the private, four-year institution’s stadium, still clutching a pigskin. A quiet advocate of equal treatment of races during the civil rights struggle, he twice took his Linfield Wildcats to play for the national small-college championship (in 1961 and 1965).
=Commissioned by his former players, the sculpture by Northwest artist Heather Greene was unveiled in October 2014. With his flat-top haircut and introspective countenance, the bespectacled Durham (he died in 2007 at the age of 93) symbolizes an upright ethic that radiates from the Christian campus. This is not a party school. Perhaps the only time things cut loose is in late July during the International Pinot Noir Celebration, when students are gone for the summer.
=Durham’s counterpoint is Franklin, who has been sitting on a park bench in the heart of downtown McMinnville for the past six years. The statesman, author, scientist and philosopher of course never visited Oregon — he lived in the 1700s, and was in the grave before Lewis and Clark made their way to the mouth of the Columbia River — but he was also a freethinker and bon vivant.
=That perhaps explains how Gary Price’s whimsical sculpture found its way to the corner of Third and Davis streets. Old Ben is depicted in a relaxed pose, a twinkle in his eye, studying a key that he may have used in his legendary experiment to extract electricity from lightning.
=Ben is also in a position to observe the growth of a city center that the McMinnville Downtown Association promotes as “Oregon’s favorite main street,” and that Parade magazine readers recently voted No. 2 in the country after Collierville, Tennessee. Several new restaurants have added to the ambience of Third Street, already filled shoulder to shoulder with blocks of shops, wine-tasting rooms and McMenamins’ Hotel Oregon, a memorable historic preservation project that opened in 1999.=
Note: The article also includes a photo of the Durham monument, however these (posted here) are two different photos of the Durham monument. These two photos were taken by Rusty Rae during the monument unveiling ceremony held Oct. 18, 2014, during Linfield Homecoming. Rusty Rae gave permission to Wildcatville to post these photos and others after the ceremony.