The city of Denison recently recognized Howard Day with its “Moving Forward, Giving Back” award for his contributions and work with the development of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. Since 2014, Day has served as an ambassador from the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission for the state of Texas.
“This is a special award the council has no timetable for when they are given,” Denison Mayor Jared Johnson said. “It is for people who do special things.”
The effort to create a memorial to the former U.S. president, who was born in Denison in 1890, started with feasibility studies in 1999. Since then, the project has been in development with an official groundbreaking taking place in November 2017. The four-acre, $150 million memorial is expected to open in 2020.
“You would think that that would be something that would be easy to accomplish, right?” Johnson said. “First of all, why does he not have one? Secondly, how hard is it to fund and build a memorial in Washington, D.C. and let the feds pay for it? It took 12 years for your federal government to figure out how to make that happen.”
For the project, Day said the memorial will be designed by architect Frank Gehry and feature all aspects of Eisenhower’s life dating back to his birth in Denison and the move to Abilene, Kansas — the city he considered to be his hometown.
As part of the memorial, visitors will also be able to use QR codes to access online materials on Eisenhower through smartphones and other wireless devices.
“The monument has to tell a story, a full story of Ike as a person,” Day said. “The very first experience with Eisenhower is a video of Denison and is about his birth.”
Day said his involvement started in 2014 when he returned home to Texas and was asked to serve in the capacity. In this role, Day said he was focused on sharing and spreading information on the progress and historical information about Eisenhower’s life and service.
Day said many of the delays in the project came from the process of getting construction of that scale approved in the nation’s capital. These obstacles include restrictions on construction that would obstruct the view of the capital rotunda.
“If you are going to build something in D.C., there are some major hurdles you have to go through,” Day said.
In addition to the logistic challenges, Day said there was some opposition from the Eisenhower family and members who felt that the memorial design was too grandiose and did not represent Eisenhower as a person.
“From the beginning, the Eisenhower family has been intimately involved with the project, but there have been some disagreements along the way,” he said.
In receiving the award for his services, Day said he was honored to be recognized, adding that the position came with little fanfare and he intentionally tried to keep his involvement as low key as possible.
“This is a voluntary position, largely unnoticed, and it had everything to do with this gentleman who only wanted to represent Denison well and make sure Denison had a place in what the memorial footprint will look like,” Johnson said.