Public Radio from UA Little Rock
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Rosanne Cash honored by ASU, meets sculptor of Johnny Cash statue for U.S. Capitol

Rosanne Cash Johnny Cash
Shane Broadway
Arkansas State University
Sculptor Kevin Kresse on Friday gave Rosanne Cash her first look at a bust of Johnny Cash that will be used to create a statue for the U.S. Capitol.

Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash will receive an honorary doctoral degree Saturday from Arkansas State University for her support of a project to restore her dad Johnny Cash’s boyhood home. While in Arkansas, she also met Friday with a sculptor who is making a statue of Johnny Cash that will eventually be displayed in the U.S. Capitol.

The university’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program has overseen the restoration of the small farm house that Cash and his family moved into in 1935 when he was 3. The family was one of 500 selected for the Dyess Colony which was a federal agricultural resettlement community established as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Rosanne Cash has been a key supporter of the project and performed at many of the annual fundraising concerts that began in 2011.

“I'm deeply honored by this,” she said Friday in an interview with KUAR News.

ASU said in a press release that Cash’s “philanthropic work has provided significant support to this one-of-a-kind heritage site.” She has also secured the donation of key artifacts that help tell the history of the community and her father, the university said.

Johnny Cash Boyhood Home
Michael Hibblen
The Johnny Cash boyhood home in Dyess on Aug. 16, 2014 when it opened as a museum.

The home opened as a museum in 2014 and has attracted fans from around the world, eager to see the place that Johnny Cash referenced in many of his best known songs. In recent years, restoration work has focused on the town circle, including the Dyess Administration Building and a former theater.

For Rosanne Cash, who never lived in Arkansas, the project has provided a unique insight into her family’s past.

“At this time in my life, at this point, my ancestral connections, my heritage is so important to me,” Cash said. “Arkansas State University has given me a great gift in inspiring me to discover more about my heritage. And you know I feel like I'm an ancestral Arkansan and I'm very proud of that.”

Cash becomes the 19th recipient of an honorary doctorate from the university in a tradition dating back to 1934. The Board of Trustees voted in March 2020 to present her with a Doctor of Humane Letters, but the presentation was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cash will receive the honor during the university’s spring commencement ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m. in Centennial Bank Stadium.


After arriving in Jonesboro on Friday, Cash met with sculptor Kevin Kresse who is working to finish the statue of her father that will eventually be one of two representing Arkansas in the U.S. Capitol. She and her siblings have been working with him on the design and this was her first chance to see the final clay model for the upper part of his body.

“I came into the room and Kevin unveiled it and I was not expecting to feel as moved as I was and to see how much truth and intensity is in this work,” Cash said. “It's uncanny how he brought soul into this statue. It’s startling and beautiful.”

She said Kresse has sent photographs as the design has evolved, with the family weighing it on aspects like the nose or eyebrows.

“He was happy to make these tweaks and the way its turned out is just staggering. It's beautiful,” Cash said.

Shane Broadway
Arkansas State University
(Left to right) Shane Broadway, vice president for university relations at Arkansas State University, scultptor Kevin Kresse, Rosanne Cash and Dr. Adam Long, Executive Director of the Arkansas Heritage Sites program. Broadway and Long are also members of the state's National Statuary Hall Steering Committee.

In 2019, the Arkansas Legislature approved replacing the state's statues in the Capitol with the music legend and civil rights leader Daisy Bates. Each state has two statues on display and Arkansas’ current ones are more than a century old featuring attorney Uriah Rose and former governor and U.S. Sen. James P. Clarke.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson had strongly backed the proposal and said he hopes the new statues can be unveiled before the end of his term in office. Kresse and Bates’ sculptor Benjamin Victor of Boise, Idaho say they are working to have the bronze statues completed by December.

Last month, Victor spent a week at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock letting the public watch as he worked on a clay model of the Bates statue. He also met with friends of Bates and members of a state committee who selected the artists and have been overseeing the process.

While no date has been set for an unveiling ceremony in Washington, DC, Rosanne Cash said she will be there.

“Oh my god, yes. I would clear my calendar for that. There's no way in the world I would ever miss that.”

Michael Hibblen was a journalist for KUAR News from May 2009 — December 2022. During his final 10 years with the station, he served as News Director. In January 2023, he was hired by Arkansas PBS to become its Senior Producer/ Director of Public Affairs.
Related Content