History, News, Road Trips

The mystery of the Minnie Pearl Bronze Statue

Minnie Pearl Bronze Statue when it was in Centerville, TN. Photo by SeeMidTN.com

One of the great mysteries in country music is the placement of the bronze statue in honor of Minnie Pearl.  Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, who was best known around the world as the comedian Minnie Pearl, was born in Centerville, Tennessee.  It is a small town of about 4,000 not far from Nashville.

Minnie Pearl was best known for her comedic performances on Hee Haw and the Grand Ole Opry.  In 1975, the Country Music Hall of Fame included her in its class.  In 1996, Sarah Cannon passed away.  On her plaque at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, you will never see a date of death as Sarah always said that the spirit of Minnie Pearl will live on even when she passes.  Today, the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation and the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center has helped cancer patients within Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky.  She was presented with the American Cancer Society’s Courage Award in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan for her volunteer work.  She once said, “I think everyone of us has a social responsibility and a moral obligation to be as kind to people as we can.”

In 2005, Rod Harris commissioned a 900-pound statue of Minnie Pearl to be placed in downtown Centerville at the Hickman County Courthouse.  It was privately funded, with one donor covering much of the $150,000 cost.  Per Larry McCormack of The Tennessean newspaper, “the donation came with one caveat: The statue had to stay on one exact spot in downtown Centerville, Tenn.”  {USA Today Article}

Mr. Harris was disgruntled with officials wanting to move the statue.  It was creating traffic problems as those taking photos would standing in traffic to get the whole statue.  A rock wall was built to keep drivers from running over it.

In 2009, however, Rod Harris removed the statue and placed it in Linden at the Commodore hotel lobby.  To Mr. Harris, he felt that Minnie Pearl should be center-stage and not moved a few feet.  Later, he moved the statue to Grinders Switch Winery in Centerville.  He demanded $10,000 from the city to return the statue to Centerville.

Minnie Pearl at Grinder’s Switch Winery – Photo by Grinder’s Switch Winery

The city refused Rod Harris’s demands, which then led him to move the statue to Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.  It use to sit in the main room of the Wrather West Kentucky Museum.   However, after talking to museum officials, the statue was just part of a traveling exhibit and left there over three years ago.

So where did Minnie Pearl head to?  After contacting my journalist friend, Chuck Dauphin, he was able to determine the whereabouts of the infamous statue.  He indicated that it was moved back to the historic Commodore Hotel & Cafe in Linden, Tennessee, which is about 30 miles from Centerville, in the middle of nowhere.  Sure enough, a search on their Facebook page shows the bronze Minnie Pearl statue in all her glory standing in a corner inside the Commodore Hotel and Cafe.

Minnie Pearl Statue at the Commodore Hotel & Cafe – photo via Facebook

As for the town of Centerville, they have commissioned another artist, Ricky Pittman, who has created an 8-foot statue made from chicken wire and colored bronze. It is now sitting at the courthouse square for all to see. 

Minnie Pearl Chicken Wire Statue – photo from Kickstarter Campaign Page

Furthermore, Mary Beth Pruett, the great-niece of Minnie Pearl announced a campaign to raise $100,000 for a life-size bronze statue in Grinder’s Switch in 2013. Click here to read more about the campaign.  So far there is no indication if anything has been done since 2013 to build the statue.

Don’t forget, if you visit the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, you can also see Minnie Pearl alongside Roy Acuff sitting on a bench.  No matter if it is a bronze statue, or one made of chicken wire, the legacy of Minnie Pearl alludes us all with her humor and talent.  Sometimes you never know where you will see her smile and hear the infamous greeting of “HOWWWDEEE!” in your head.

Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl Statue at Ryman Auditorium – Photo by Jessica Bray