Through the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, Baylor extensively researched the record of the University and its early leaders relative to slavery and the Confederacy while evaluating and offering guidance regarding all statues, monuments, buildings and other aspects of the campus within this context.
One of the Commission’s recommendations was to have physical representations that better communicate the many contributions of Baylor’s Black students, faculty and staff. The Rev. Robert Gilbert and Mrs. Barbara Walker statues are a direct outgrowth of the Commission’s work.
The University issued a public call for interested artists in 2021, and Benjamin Victor was selected because, among other attributes, his emphasis on storytelling for historically underrepresented groups made him the ideal sculptor for the Gilbert and Walker statues. According to the project team, Victor was clearly hungry to take on these seminal pieces for the University. In addition, his work in both stone and bronze afforded a broad design opportunity for Baylor.
Victor worked with the Gilbert and Walker families, along with the Baylor project team, to create statues that are 1.5-times life-size – standing more than 7-feet tall. He sculpted the statues in clay, then used a rubber-type mold to create bronze casts at a foundry. Each statue has a special patina finish that Victor developed. The two pieces were conceptualized and created in his Idaho studio and personally driven to Waco for permanent placement outside the historic Tidwell Bible Building.
Originally dedicated in 1954, Tidwell has served virtually every Baylor student as a home to classes in religion, philosophy, history, sociology, nursing, modern foreign language and sacred music. Today, it houses the religion, history and sociology departments, which were Rev. Gilbert’s and Mrs. Walker’s areas of study.