RICHMOND, Va. -- The monument honoring Maggie Walker was revealed to the public during a special ceremony Saturday morning on what would have been the Richmond icon and entrepreneur's 153rd birthday.
The statue of Maggie Lena Walker is located in downtown Richmond at Broad and Adams streets, which is a gateway to the Jackson Ward neighborhood where many of her life accomplishments occurred.
Antonio Toby Mendez, who was contracted in 2015 to create the tribute, said the 10-foot bronze sculpture depicts Walker at the peak of her life when she was 45 years old.
"If somebody comes into this memorial and doesn't know anything about Maggie Walker, they'll walk away knowing her life story,” Mendez said.
Mendez said installation aims to be educational, inviting and a place where people can gather to reflect.
"It's very exciting," Mendez added. "It's hard to believe that we've come this far and that we're ready to do this."
The Richmond business woman knew the value of a dollar and was the first woman to open a bank in the United States in 1903.
Walker was also a civil rights pioneer, entrepreneur and mother who pushed for economic empowerment and independence in her neighborhood.
"She had tragedies within her life. But she never gave up hope. She always had faith,” said Ajena Rogers, the manager of the nearby Maggie L. Walker historical site.
The unveiling was part of a 20 year effort to pay tribute and showcase her achievements.
Melvin Jones Jr. played a big role in fighting for the statue.
"July the 15th of 2017 is a day that I will remember,” Jones said. "Every door is open for you to do a process like this. Anybody can do it.”
It was a proud moment for Walker`s descendants and the community that commemorated a woman who knew the value of a dollar.
"There is a future beyond your current life that you can become greater than your circumstance,” said J. Maurice Hopkins, an alumni of Maggie L. Walker High School alumni, said.
Marilyn Alston, another alumni of the school, called the monument an honor.
"I am so proud to be a part of this moment,” Alston said.
Walker's great-grandson: 'It's been a long battle'
"Just sitting here looking at how they captured the history of her life...is touching,” said Dr. Johnny Mickens III, the great-grandson of Maggie Walker. "When you think about the time, you kind of think that it's almost impossible."
Her grandson said the memorial has been nearly 20 years in the making
"I'm elated; I'm elated,” he said. “It's been a long battle," Mickens said. "It means that a person who persevered through Jim Crow days make major accomplishments that people tried to turn around."
As president and founder of the St. Luke Penny Savings, Walker pushed for economic empowerment and independence in her community.
"I mean they had the reformers bank and several other black banks,” Mickens said. “But for a woman to do it was kind of unheard of at the time."
The statue is an investment that Walker's descendants said will mean much more for years to come.
"It's going to be a momentous occasion, that's all I can say,” Mickens said. “And every time I pass it, it will be.”