A bust of the man who drafted and introduced the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery will be dedicated during the Louisiana Bicentennial Celebration June 30 to July 4.

John Brooks Henderson helped to change America, and there will soon be a permanent tribute in his hometown of Louisiana.

A bust of the man who drafted and introduced the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery will be dedicated during the Louisiana Bicentennial Celebration June 30 to July 4.

World-renown local artist John Stoeckley undertook the project a year ago, and is putting the finishing touches on a clay rendering that marks the first phase of design.

Stoeckley is widely known for his two-dimensional paintings, but the bust represents a three-dimensional challenge in which he hasn’t had extensive practice. He took a sculpture class in college, but that was 50 years ago, and he’s had occasion to create only a few busts since.

“This is the most important sculpture I’ve ever done,” Stoeckley admitted, adding that he wholeheartedly welcomed the opportunity. “It’s pushing me to work in a medium I’m not adept at.”

The Henderson effigy started in January 2017 as little more than a base of pipe and foam moldings. Over months, Stoeckley added clay and shaped the features.

He consulted another world-famous artist — former Pike County resident Harry Weber, who has done sculptures of everyone from politicians and athletes to religious figures and ordinary people — and reviewed photos of other statuary as references.

“I pick up on different elements of different pieces,” Stoeckley said. “I was interested in seeing how other artists dealt with hair, beards, noses and other aspects.”

During his time in the Senate, Henderson had long, flowing hair. He also had piercing eyes that reflected on the kind of stubborn ambition which led him to overcome being orphaned at age 10, studying to be a lawyer, serving the Union during the Civil War, becoming a confidant of President Abraham Lincoln and defying his Republican colleagues by voting to acquit Democrat President Andrew Johnson of impeachment charges.

Henderson later worked on such issues as women’s voting rights, Native American affairs and prosecution of Whiskey Ring suspects.

“Doing the eyes is a challenge,” Stoeckley said. “You want to have a strong eye that shows a dark pupil.”

The tweaking can seem a bit strange — putting ears on and taking them off or adding one side of hair while the other side of the scalp is bare — but the goal is the best rendering. Several photos of Henderson serve as models.

In May, the completed bust will be taken to a Chesterfield foundry, where it will be cast in bronze. A foundation measuring three-by-six feet will then be built. The bust itself will be about 25 inches tall.

The dedication will take place in Henderson Park on the bluff overlooking the 1928 Champ Clark Bridge and the new one that’s under construction. The senator once owned the land.

Donations will help pay for the work. Information about making a contribution may be found at www.louisiana200.com.

Stoeckley estimates he’s put in more than 200 hours on the project, but considers it a labor of love.

“It’s not work because I’m having fun,” he said.