Memorial to late fire chief
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.