Residents reflect: Four Freedoms Monument unveiled 75 years ago

By: Julie Montanaro/WCTV Eyewitness News
June 14, 2019

MADISON, Fla (WCTV/Eyewitness News) - 75 years ago folks gathered for the unveiling of the Four Freedoms Monument in Madison.

It honors one of the first heroes of World War II - a man from Madison who was shot down just two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The Four Freedoms Monument sits right across the street from the Madison County Courthouse.

Madison County Clerk of Courts Billy Washington can see it from his office window.

"To have something that's a national recognition here in Madison, means a ton to me personally," Washington said, "and not to mention the fact that it was dedicated here because a hero from Madison gave his life for other people."

The Four Freedoms statue features four angels which depict President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four ideals, ideals he first outlined in a speech to the nation in January 1941.

They are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Teenie Cave was a little girl back then. She remembers coming to the monument unveiling.

"I remember coming up here with my parents and there was a lot of people up here and flags everywhere," Cave said. "It was a big ... very, very emotional."

A silent video in the Florida Archives shows the monument unveiling on June 14, 1944. Florida Governor Spessard Holland was there and Florida's first lady actually unveiled the statue. A military band was playing and there were flags and red, white and blue bunting everywhere.

On the front of the monument is the name of Colin Kelly.

His nephew, Colin Howerton, never met him, but treasures the family stories he's heard all his life.

"He was somewhat, what mother would say, somewhat of a daredevil," Howerton said, "so everything he did, everything was dedicated, going to West Point and everything so he could be a flyer."

Colin Kelly flew a B-17 bomber. He and his crew bombed a Japanese ship just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but came under fire as they headed back to Clark Field. Even after his plane was hit by the Japanese and rapidly catching fire, Kelly stayed at the controls long enough for his crew to bail out. Kelly and one other solider died.

Kelly's picture and his West Point yearbook are proudly displayed in the Treasures of Madison Museum a few blocks away from the monument bearing his name.

"This is Walter Scott Russell in his studio," Teenie Cave said as she pointed to another large black and white picture hanging high on the museum wall. "He is the sculptor of the Four Freedoms Monument and there's a picture on the easel in front and that picture is of Colin Kelly."

The Four Freedoms monument is a beloved reminder of Kelly and all the heroes who died. Its four angels are a reminder of 'why' they fought.

"It's for all the veterans who have given everything," Colin Howerton said.

The unveiling was a big deal in its day. Florida's governor was there. A radio station from Jacksonville made the trip to cover it and locals tell us the unveiling even made the New York Times the next day.