A statue bearing the likeness of 95-year-old local Tuskegee Airman Richard Hall, Jr. was damaged over the weekend.
The Winter Park Police Department is in search of an unknown person who vandalized a statue of Tuskegee Airman and longtime Winter Park resident Richard Hall, Jr. outside the Hannibal Square Heritage Center over the weekend.
Police were contacted early Monday, May 6 and responded at about 8:25 a.m. when a large hole was discovered in the abdominal area of the fiberglass statue.
The likeness of Chief Master Sgt. Hall was created by Florida artist Rigoberto Torres, who was commissioned by the Crealdé School of Art in 2015 to honor the WWII hero. Casts were made of Hall’s physical features to create the statue, which has sat on the porch of the Heritage Center ever since.
It’s terrible to see something like this happen, Hannibal Square Heritage Center Manager Barbara Chandler said.
“This is sad for the community as a whole,” Chandler said. “What I do believe is that we can come back from this. I’m very pleased with the community support that we’ve gained and outside of our immediate community, Darrell Gray — who is a member of the local Tuskegee chapter — has been with us for the last two days. We’re pleased with the support because this doesn’t just impact our local Winter Park community. It impacts us throughout culturally, historically — those are important things. This is a prominent figure … I think we’re going to make it through.”
Hall, who lives nearby in Maitland and is still a member of Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Hannibal Square, is one of about 996 African-American pilots and 15,000 ground personnel who served in the U.S. Air Force’s all-black units during World War II — the first in the nation’s history.
The “Red Tails,” as they were known because of the red tails on their planes, were the first African-American aviators in the United States military. Hall and the other brave soldiers reported to Tuskegee, Alabama, to receive their training. From there Hall joined the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Composite Group, which included the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 617th Bomber Squadron.
Crealdé School of Art CEO/Executive Director Peter Schreyer said they will continue to work with police to try and catch whoever is responsible for the vandalizing the statue of the local veteran.
“Of course it’s on our mind: what was the reason?” Schreyer said. “It was obviously a deliberate act of violence. Did it have something to do with who he represents or was it just a stupid act of violence?”
Rigoberto Torres has already been contacted about repairing the statue as well.
“He’s going to come and take a look at it,” Chandler said. “He said it’s very repairable and he’s excited to do it. We’re excited to have him do it and we want it to happen sooner than later.”
Anyone that has any information to help with the investigation can contact the Winter Park Police Department at (407)644-1313 or CRIMELINE at (800) 423-8477.