Return of the Native: Long-lost statue of Dr. Harry Jenkins comes home to TJC

Jan 08, 2014 by

For a long time, he was missing. For 11 years, he was known as “George.” But now the statue of former Tyler Junior College President Dr. Harry E. Jenkins is back to his old self – and back at the college where his namesake made such an impact.

For nearly two decades, the statue’s theft, discovered on Easter Sunday 1995, was the subject of much speculation. The rumors were rampant: he’s at the bottom of Lake Tyler; he was melted for cash; he was spotted in a frat house in Austin. Who stole him and where he traveled between April 16, 1995 and a summer day in 2002 remains unknown.

Thanks to a reopened “cold case” investigation launched by TJC in August 2011, the statue’s last host was able to connect the Jenkins statue to its past and return it, producing a news story that went viral and made headlines nationwide.

“I’m actually a building engineer and worked for an apartment complex from 2001 to 2011,” Bernardo “Berny” Trevino, of Austin, said during a news conference in July. “In summer 2002, we had a resident call in and complain that someone had a statue on their patio. We went to the unit and found the statue but also discovered that the resident had skipped out on their lease.”

After refurbishing, the statue was installed in a permanent place of honor in the east foyer of Jenkins Hall.

After refurbishing, the statue was installed in a permanent
place of honor in the east foyer of Jenkins Hall.

Trevino said it was customary for the apartment manager to instruct him to send all belongings left behind to a trash compactor. “There was no way I was going to put him in a trash compactor.”

So, Trevino called a few friends and took custody of the 300-pound bronze statue; and for the next 11 years, the statue they named “George” was the talk of friendly gatherings and parties.

“Most of the time, he was the quiet guy in the corner,” Trevino said. “We would decorate him for Halloween, and for Christmas he wore a Santa outfit. We had a Hawaiian luau and he wore a lei.”

In late June, Trevino was helping his former roommate, Matthew Remington, with a garage sale. Remington was moving to Montana and parting with many of his belongings.

Trevino brought the statue to the sale, but the two agreed it just didn’t seem right to sell it.

So, they tried one more Internet search to determine its rightful owner – as they had done periodically since its discovery. This time, they included the words “stolen statue” in their search. The results led to a news report about TJC’s reopened “cold case” investigation and the rest, as they say, is history.

Within days, the statue was returned to Tyler and unveiled to the public during a press conference.

The statue was completely refurbished and installed in its new, permanent home in the east foyer of Jenkins Hall. To avoid any further escapades, a security camera is now focused on the statue at all times.

“We are going to make sure Dr. Jenkins’ statue stays here in a secure place that appropriately honors his major role in TJC history,” TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said. “He’s traveled enough; and now that he’s back home, we will make sure he travels no more!”

Fred M. Peters is TJC director of public affairs and grant development.


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Fall 2013, Features

About the author

Fred Peters is the Director of Public Affairs at Tyler Junior College. He can be reached at 903-510-2627 or at fpet@tjc.edu