The Official Website of Gene Autry, America's Favorite Singing Cowboy

News Archive: 2009

Statue of valley's singing cowboy, Gene Autry, lands on his Trail and Ramon
Posted November 23, 2009

A new Gene Autry statue was unveiled on November 17, 2009 in Palm Springs at the Gene Autry Plaza, located on Gene Autry Trail and Ramon Road.

Statue of valley's singing cowboy, Gene Autry,
lands on his Trail and Ramon

By Marcel Honoré, The Desert Sun
November 18, 2009

Jackie Autry, widow of famed cowboy, film star and part-time Coachella Valley resident Gene Autry, helped unveil the valley's first sculpture of her deceased husband Tuesday in Palm Springs.

The 7-foot bronze sculpture, at the new Gene Autry Plaza commercial complex at Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail, depicts Autry singing and strumming a guitar during his circa-1940 Hollywood heyday.

It's called "Gene Autry: America's Favorite Singing Cowboy," according to a spokesman. It was created by Canadian sculptor De L'Esprie.

"He would have loved this," Autry said after the sculpture's dedication. "It absolutely captures his spirit, his image ... it makes me feel like he's here."

"I'm bowled over," added Autry, a Palm Springs resident.

Gene Autry, who rose to fame after being discovered by Will Rogers, exuded a strong presence in Palm Springs. He got to know the area while taking breaks from filming movies in nearby Pioneertown and, in 1940, purchased his first Palm Springs home, Jackie Autry said.

A bronze statue of Gene Autry was revealed to guests and Autry's widow, Jackie Autry, on the southeast corner of Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail on Tuesday in Palm Springs. (Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun)

Gene Sculpture

(From left) Great American Bronze Works Inc. President David L. Spellerberg admires the bronze statue of Gene Autry with Autry's widow, Jackie Autry, and artist De L'Esprie during the dedication ceremony at Gene Autry Plaza on Tuesday in Palm Springs. (Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun)

Her late husband, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 91, was friends with Palm Springs stalwarts such as former mayor Frank Bogert, she added.

In 1961 Gene Autry bought a Holiday Inn property on East Palm Canyon Drive that went through several incarnations before Autry sold it and it became the Parker Palm Springs hotel, Jackie Autry said.

Gene Autry also owned what is now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim professional baseball team – then the California Angels. For more than 30 years the team had spring training in Palm Springs at what's now Palm Springs Stadium.

The nonprofit Autry Foundation, headed by Jackie Autry, donates to valley hospitals and charities and has given more than $280 million to various charities over the years, according to a news release.

L'Esprie's sculpture of Autry cost more than $150,000 to produce, according to original Gene Autry Plaza developer George Nicholas.

It was funded with $25,000 in city art-in-public-places funds, with the balance covered privately by the developers, Nicholas said.

L'Esprie also has several other sculptures depicting Autry, including works at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and at the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles, L'Esprie said.

Gene Sculpture

Jackie Autry poses with the statue of her late husband, Gene Autry, on Tuesday at Gene Autry Plaza. It was designed by artist De L'Esprie and cast in bronze by Great American Bronze Works Inc. President David L. Spellerberg. (Marilyn Chung The Desert Sun)

The City Council approved the sculpture in January 2009 despite a recommendation by the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission to deny the artwork. The commission said the sculpture was a reproduction of a piece at the Autry National Center of the American West.

Palm Springs Municipal Code states that artwork in the city cannot be a reproduction of original work except limited editions.

Jackie Autry said the commission was wrong, and Councilman Rick Hutcheson said the sculpture at the museum has Autry posing with a horse, while there's no horse with the new Palm Springs sculpture.

Additional Photos

Courtesy of Palm Springs
Photo Credit: Mark Davidson

The bronze sculpture of Gene Autry
following its unveiling

Gene Sculpture

Sculptor David Spellerberg
speaks to the audience

Investec's Grant Harris, George Nicholas, artist De L'Esprie, Mrs. Jackie Autry, David Spellerberg

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