In a Friday morning ceremony that was both moving and educational, Fort Worth reconnected with its past, honored its long and significant contributions to military history and finally paid tribute to its founder and a cherished modern-day leader.
On the banks of the Trinity River, below the bluff where the original Camp Worth was built, hundreds gathered for the unveiling of the 22-foot Major Ripley Allen Arnold Monument and the dedication of John V. McMillan Plaza.
Arnold, actually a brevet major, established a military post here 165 years ago on June 6, 1849, and named it for his former commander, Brevet Maj. Gen. Williams Jenkins Worth.
McMillian, who started the Coors distributorship in Fort Worth in 1966, was an outstanding businessman and a dedicated civic leader who befriended numerous individuals and causes. He died in 2001.
Honoring the city’s founder has been a dream of former Fort Worth City Councilman Jim Lane for years. The idea of erecting a major sculpture of Arnold eventually caught on and Lane, along with historian Clara Ruddell, spearheaded the effort.
They received a lot of help and encouragement from the Tarrant Regional Water District, the Larry Anfin family (heirs of McMillan), the Burnett Foundation, Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, Inc./Radio Shack and Tarrant County College.
Friday’s ceremony took on special meaning from the start, as the posting of the colors was performed by the Comanche Indian Veterans Association, marching to the beat of a ceremonial drum. It was the Comanches that Arnold had been charged to keep in check and from whom settlers were to be protected.
The Native Americans’ presence naturally evoked the spirit of their ancestors who roamed this land centuries before any Europeans arrived.
The diversity did not stop there. Also present were Isiah Edwards Jr., of Mississippi and his family, who were introduced as direct descendants of Arnold. Edwards is African-American.
Remembered during the ceremony were the late James Toal and the late Phyllis Tilley, both of whom had long worked to bring attention and development to the Trinity River. Toal, an urban planner, designed the plaza.
The image of Arnold gazing upward toward the bluff will forever be a reminder of his deeds and those of pioneers who came afterward, dedicated to building a great American city.