Me­mo­rial to late fire chief

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS INSIDE - JAKE SANDLIN

Kit Murphy (right) and her niece Arian Clute look at a statue and plaque hon­or­ing Murphy’s late hus­band Jim Murphy, a for­mer North Lit­tle Rock fire chief, on Thurs­day dur­ing a cer­e­mony at city Fire Sta­tion No. 9.

A bronze statue of a boy with a fire hose and a fire­man’s hat now sits out­side North Lit­tle Rock’s Fire Sta­tion No. 9 at John F. Kennedy Boule­vard and Osage Drive in honor of not only city fire­fight­ers, but also as a trib­ute to late Fire Chief Jim Murphy.

Murphy led the North Lit­tle Rock Fire De­part­ment from Au­gust 2014 un­til his March 18 death, which was at­trib­uted to com­pli­ca­tions from heart surgery. He was 65.

Mayor Joe Smith and Kit Murphy, the for­mer chief’s wi­dow, helped un­veil the 3-foot-tall statue in a brief cer­e­mony Thurs­day morn­ing. The statue is Fire­man in Train­ing, from the Ran­dolph Rose Col­lec­tion, ran­dolphrose.com, of Yonkers, N.Y.

On the side of the base is a plaque that reads “In Mem­ory of Fire Chief Jim Murphy for his ded­i­cated ser­vice to the City of North Lit­tle Rock.”

The city had al­ready or­dered the statue last year as part of its pub­lic art pro­gram, Smith said, but it took on spe­cial mean­ing af­ter Murphy’s death, he said. The North Lit­tle Rock City Beau­ti­ful Com­mis­sion pro­vided a $2,200 grant to­ward the pur­chase, and an­other $1,000 was ap­proved pre­vi­ously by the City Coun­cil as a Ward Beau­ti­fi­ca­tion Grant, ac­cord­ing to city of­fi­cials.

“We thought it was only fit­ting to honor Chief Murphy and not only his ser­vice to our Fire De­part­ment, but for his fire ser­vice around the coun­try,” Smith said.

Smith hired Murphy from Florida when Murphy was re­tired af­ter 35 years of fire ser­vice with the Or­ange County, Fla., Fire De­part­ment. Af­ter re­tir­ing, Murphy be­came a na­tion­ally known trainer for first-re­spon­ders.

Kit Murphy re­mains in North Lit­tle Rock, tak­ing a job this sum­mer as a le­gal as­sis­tant in the North Lit­tle Rock city at­tor­ney’s of­fice. At Thurs­day’s cer­e­mony, she said that even though she could move closer to rel­a­tives in Texas and Florida, North Lit­tle Rock be­came the cou­ple’s home.

“I can’t tell you how much my hus­band loved this city and loved each and every one of you,” she said, look­ing to­ward sev­eral fire­fight­ers and then giv­ing new Fire Chief Ger­ald Tucker a hug. “I came to love this city. Thank you for mak­ing me part of your fam­ily.”

City Coun­cil mem­bers Murry Witcher and Char­lie Hight of the city’s Ward 4 ap­proached Smith last year, Witcher said, with the idea to add pub­lic art to honor the city’s fire­fight­ers. Witcher also was in­stru­men­tal in the city plac­ing an­other Ran­dolph Rose statue out­side the Pa­trick Hays Se­nior Cen­ter. That statue of an older man sit­ting on a bench read­ing to a young girl was added in 2011.

“There were sev­eral vari­a­tions of this,” Witcher said of the boy fire­fighter statue. “This was the one Char­lie and I de­cided would do best.”

Smith said Sta­tion 9 was cho­sen for the statue be­cause it is within Witcher’s and Hight’s ward.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STATON BREIDENTHAL

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