Barry Memorial Awaits Decision

Clay model of the Barry Memorial by the sculptor Ron Tunison.

At the past national convention in New Orleans, the AOH unanimously endorsed the effort to build a memorial to Irish-born, first Flag Officer of the United States Navy, Commodore John Barry.  In August of 2008, led by Washington DC State Historian Jack O’Brien, a proposal was submitted to erect a memorial to Commodore John Barry on the grounds of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.  A significant amount of time and effort was put into preparing the proposal: numerous meetings with the Academy staff, research on other memorials for design ideas, discussions with artists and memorial building companies, plan writes and rewrites, and countless hours behind a table at Irish events throughout the mid-Atlantic area to obtain support for the proposal. Initially, the concept conceived by Jack O’Brien and very professionally proposed by him and his team was turned down by the Naval Academy.  In a letter from the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, Vice Admiral J.L. Fowler (stamped Jan 9, 2009), he informed Jack that the proposal would not be appropriate for the Academy grounds.  He did so without explanation.

Not deterred in the least and not willing to take “no” for an answer, Brother O’Brien got right back in the game and requested a way to appeal the decision.  Jack has spent the last year resubmitting the proposal to the Academy and at the same time soliciting support from many sources including numerous retired Admiralty and a list of senators and congressman that is growing so fast he might just get a congressional mandate directing the Academy to build it.  He has garnered support Governor O’Mally of Maryland, from the Philadelphia Council of the Navy League of the United States, The President of Fordham University, the Board of Erin and many others. Frank Duggan, a lobbyist for more than 30 years and a long time Commodore John Barry Division member in DC recently thanked and congratulated Jack, for all the support you have garnered for this memorial. I have watched your progress with admiration.  You and your team have touched all the bases that need to be approached for support and have made an incredibly strong case after being initially refused by the Naval Academy. We still have more to do, but you have done an outstanding job and we are all grateful.

The planned memorial will be fabricated in granite and will be eight feet high and ten feet in width. On the front of the memorial will be a thirty-inch circular bronze relief of Commodore John Barry.  Below it will be a forty by twenty-six inch enlarged duplicate copy (in bronze) of Barry’s naval commission “Number One”, adorned with the signature of George Washington.  This was the first naval commission of an officer in our nation’s history under the Constitution.  On the back of the memorial will be a circular relief of thirty inches of the Navy’s first seal.  Below it will be a bronze plaque, giving the naval career highlights of Commodore John Barry.  Codori Memorials of Gettysburg Pennsylvania is the general contractor and will use Vermont marble.  The sculptor is Ron Tunison of Cairo, New York.  Both of these contractors have worked together in the past to create the Irish Brigade Monument at Bloody Lane on Antietam National Battlefield.

In a recent showing of significant support from Members of Congress a letter was sent to Vice Admiral Folwer endorsing the AOH’s efforts to build the memorial.  The co-signers of the letter included the Co-Chairs of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs Elliot Engle (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) as well as the Chair of the Friends of Ireland Richard Neal (D-MA). The letter noted that they all had co-sponsored the legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush, hailing Barry’s invaluable naval contributions and recognizing Barry as the first flag officer of the United States Navy.  The letter stated that they strongly support the efforts of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) to erect a memorial to Commodore John Barry on the public grounds of the United States Naval Academy.  We trust that their appeal will receive the favorable consideration it deserves.

One new factor in the decision process at the Academy is the fact that a new Superintendent was just appointed to replace Vice Admiral Fowler.  Rear Admiral Michael H. Miller is currently awaiting Senate confirmation before assuming the post.  Once a positive decision has been made by the Academy the process of raising significant donations will begin in earnest.  For more information please contact Jack O’Brien at 301-336-5167.

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