Statue to leave TWHBEA

Friday, December 14, 2012
Tribune photo by Clint Confehr

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

The life-size bronze statue of Midnight Sun, one of the top Tennessee Walking Horses of all time, will leave its spot in front of TWHBEA headquarters on North Ellington Parkway next year.

The statue was on loan to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association from its home at Dixie Plantation, stated Executive Assistant Diane White.

White is not sure exactly when the statue will be leaving for the return trip to Greenville, Fla. or what will replace it in the Commemorative Garden.

"Original plans called for a beautiful fountain," White said, but a statue of another horse is not out of the question.

It would be hard to find a horse more important than Midnight Sun for the Walking Horse breed.

Foaled in 1940, the stallion's original name was Joe Lewis Wilson, and he was an unpromising ugly duckling as a young horse, but grew into a beautiful black swan.

In 1944, Wirt and Alex Harlin of Franklin bought the horse and renamed him Midnight Sun. Midnight Sun was the first winner of the World Grand Championship at the 1945 Celebration, and repeated the feat in 1946. From then until his death from colic in 1965, Midnight Sun bred up to 100 mares per year, spreading his influence all over the Walking Horse breed. The majority of Celebration champions have Midnight Sun somewhere in their pedigrees, often multiple times.

At the Harlinsdale Farm dispersal sale in 1956, Midnight Sun was purchased by Eleanor Livingston and her daughter Geraldine for $50,000, but they left him at Harlinsdale to continue his stud career, and that is where he is buried.

Geraldine Livingston commissioned the statue of Midnight Sun and gave it to her mother as a birthday present in 1972, and it stood in the gardens of Dixie Plantation until it was sent on loan to TWHBEA.

A small copy of the bronze, by sculptor Bradley Cooley, will be presented to anyone who donates $5,000 or more to the Geraldine C. M. Livingston Foundation.

The Foundation was created in 1994, and when Geraldine Livingston died, it became active and received IRS approval as a 501(c)(3) Private Operating Foundation. It is governed by a board of trustees. The foundation has placed over 9,000 acres of the plantation under conservation easement, thereby ensuring that the land will never be developed or sold. The foundation has also continued the Livingston tradition of enhancing the habitat for wild quail and hosting bird dog hunting trials. The Foundation supports and encourages education and research in the fields of forestry, agriculture, and ecology through grants and cooperative research projects.

Dixie Plantation's 14,000 square foot Greek revival mansion, designed by famed architect John Russell Pope and built between 1938 and 1940, is being restored by the Foundation.