A crowd of more than 150 people -- including a large group of third-grade students from Clarksville Academy and a busload of Coldwell Banker Realtors -- gathered to watch Mayor Kim McMillan, statue project leader Mark Holleman, and sculptor Scott Wise pull the shroud from the bronze image.
The statue of Sutton emerged glowing in the midday sun and evoked oohs and ahs from the crowd pressing forward from Franklin Street and the sidewalk. Sculptor Wise’s statue perfectly evokes Sutton’s famous “Sgt. Carter” from the CBS sitcom, “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.,” with his trademark hat, lean- forward stance, square jaw and flaring nostrils.
Mayor McMillan, suffering from a bad case of laryngitis, said through a spokesman: “This is a great day for Clarksville, especially downtown. I thank Mark and the committee for their accomplishment. Frank Sutton remains a ‘favorite son’ of our community and this is a fitting tribute to him. He gave distinguished service to our country, and by all accounts, he was always fond of Clarksville, and remained true to his relatives and roots here.”
Holleman -- civic leader and broker/owner of Coldwell Banker Conroy, Marable & Holleman -- working with the City of Clarksville, led the drive to place the statue near the Roxy Theatre in Sutton’s hometown.
“This is about keeping the past alive for our youngsters, like these students who gather here with us today,” Holleman said. “This all started when one of my agents, Pat Powers, a distant relative of Frank Sutton, and I started talking about making this a company project. It was a long two years of hard work, but it turned out great, thanks to Scott Wise, the City, and of course, the group of investors who contributed the money.”
Holleman introduced investors in the Sutton Statue, including representatives of Planters Bank, the Hand Family Companies, Two Rivers Company, Dr. Alan and Donna Warner; Bill and Fran Powers; J. and Rhonda Runyon, and Coldwell Banker Conroy, Marable & Holleman. The granite base was donated by Clarksville Memorial Co.
The City of Clarksville, which has accepted donation of the completed statue from the committee, prepared the site and installed the work.
Sutton, who took to the stage as a student at East High School in Nashville, where his family moved when he was 8, returned to Clarksville after high school and worked as a radio announcer. During World War II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the South Pacific.
After the war, he began a notable career as an actor, with many TV roles in shows. But Sutton will always be remembered for his breakthrough role as tough Marine Corps Sgt. Vince Carter in the “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” television series with Jim Nabors.
PHOTO CAPTION: The completed statue of Frank Sutton was unveiled at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday near the Roxy Theatre on Franklin Street by Mark Holleman, Mayor Kim McMillan and sculptor Scott Wise.