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Samuel Spencer Statue Finds Home in Front of Goode Building

Jun 04, 2009
Samuel Spencer Statue

A 99-year-old bronze statue of Samuel Spencer, first president of Norfolk Southern predecessor Southern Railway, has been relocated from an Atlanta city park and placed in front of the David R. Goode Building.

Some 30,000 employees voluntarily contributed funds for a memorial to Spencer following his tragic death in a rear-end train collision in Virginia in 1906. Daniel Chester French, a notable American sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., was commissioned to create the statue. It was unveiled in May 1910 on the plaza at Atlanta’s Terminal Station and ceremoniously presented to the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta. It remained there for 60 years, until it was moved to Southern’s Peachtree Station in July 1970. In 1996, as part of preparations for the Summer Olympics, the statue was relocated to Hardy Ivy Park downtown. Movement to its present midtown setting was arranged by agreement with the city of Atlanta and Norfolk Southern.

Over his career, Spencer served as president of six railroads. But his first railroad job came in 1869 as a surveying crew rodman for the Savannah & Western, a Central of Georgia predecessor. He became the first president of Southern Railway in 1894. During his 12-year tenure, the railway’s mileage doubled, its annual passengers quadrupled to 12 million, and its earnings increased from $17 million to $54 million.

Spencer’s passes (including one signed by Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the president) and pocket carrying case were removed from the train wreckage in which he died and today are displayed in the NS Museum in Norfolk.

The statue depicts Spencer in an office chair, perched high atop a marble pedestal in front of the glass facade of the Goode Building. Just on the other side of the glass inside the building lobby is another historic icon of the company, a replica of the 1830 Best Friend of Charleston, first steam locomotive built in America for regular service on a railroad, on loan from the city of Charleston, S.C.