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A family tradition: father-son duo carry on family legacy, craft new FAMU statue

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 7:15 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The newest addition to Florida A&M University’s campus is striking to say the least.

It’s a bronze statue of a 42-foot long rattlesnake, right in front of the newly constructed CASS Building off Wahnish Way.

The new statue is truly a can’t miss attraction, that has the Rattler Nation entranced.

It’s in a position to pounce off the busiest road through campus, but was born down a dirt path in Lamont dozens of miles away.

“We wanted a piece you could get involved in but still have that bold, strong look to it,” the artist, Brad Cooley, Jr. said.

Cooley, Jr. has art in his blood.

“My grandfather was actually a sculptor on my mother’s side,” Cooley Jr. said. “Then my grandmother was a painter and a sculptor on the other side.”

Then there’s dad: Bradley Cooley, Sr.

He moved to the farm in Lamont 50 years ago.

Art was a hobby then, but it didn’t last long because he was too good.

“The demand for it, with the historical accuracy of his pieces, just started attracting more and more attention,” Cooley, Jr. says.

Cooley, Jr. was 16-years-old when he started working with his dad.

“We fought like cats and dogs,” Cooley Jr. explains.

But, all joking aside, they made quite the team.

Together, they created “50 life-size pieces across the United States,” according to Cooley, Jr.

Many of those are Native American inspired works, like the one sitting outside the R.A. Gray building in Tallahassee.

The duo has also created statues of Ray Charles, Bobby Bowden and a lot of wildlife.

Cooley, Jr. says a statue of two deer comes in at 27 feet tall, which he claims is a world record.

“What’s the record?” WCTV’s Ben Kaplan asked.

“World largest white tail,” Cooley Jr. responded.

But, the Rattler statue ranks among Cooley’s favorites because after all the years he spent by his father’s side, this time, his son Holden was by his.

“This is the first time doing a big project with my dad,” Holden Cooley explained.

The Florida High student is the fourth generation of Cooley artists, and he’s the same exact age his dad was when he started.

“I was saying I started about the same age, and a little flashback, wow, I was doing it then?” Cooley Jr. says.

Holden was involved in every step of the year-long process.

“I helped him with the armature. I made a whole bunch of the scales,” Holden says. “I helped sculpt the face a little bit. Just a little bit of everything.”

The father and son are carrying on a family tradition.

“When my grandfather passed away, it left a mark on me and I do everything I can to make him proud, and I remember when I was little watching them work on sculptures together, and it really means a lot that I am a part of it now,” Holden says.

“We’ve had a really nice time with it, and it’s nice to leave something behind for people to see for years to come,” Cooley Jr. says.

Their first creation together is now a part of family, and FAMU lore too.

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