Monumental job: Cameron man gives Milam statue a makeover
by Jeanne Williams
Temple Daily Telegram - June 2, 2008
CAMERON - Fine art conservation master Robert Alden Marshall
- who trained at the Smithsonian Institute, cultured his skills
on famous figurines at Versailles, and refaced thousands of
exalted historical images - is responsible for the brown patina
sheen being worn by the 80-year-old bronze statue of Texas
Revolutionary War hero Benjamin Rush Milam in downtown Cameron.
Marshall, who divides his time between Fort Worth and a
Cameron-area ranch, said he literally annoyed Milam County
officials into allowing him to work on the corroded statue
that stands on the courthouse square.
Marshall said incentive was the basis for his agreement to clean
the statue at a bargain-basement price of $4,000.
He spent last week setting up scaffolding, assessing damage and making repairs.
Marshall has operated Marshall Art & Architectural Conservation & Gold Leaf Studio in
Cameron since 2004.
He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry,
and earned a master’s degree in fine art conservation from the Smithsonian Institute in
He interned at Stern & Co. restoring antique musical instruments, and in France at The
Louvre and le Jardin de Versailles, where he worked on stone and bronze sculpture. His
career has included numerous restoration projects of historic buildings, including the
Pennsylvania State Capitol, Colonial Williamsburg furnishings and statues.
Some of his latest work was done in Waco. Marshall has been honored nationally and in
Texas for historical restoration and preservation.
The Ben Milam statue depicts a moment in Texas history when Milam rallied 300 volunteers
for a raid on San Antonio on Dec. 5, 1835. One of 20 monuments commissioned around the
state, Milam County’s $14,000 namesake statue was part of the 1936 Texas Centennial
commemoration that targeted historical monuments, buildings and museums, Texas
Historical Commission documents stated.
London-born Bryant Baker - a renowned artist from New York, who created busts for five
U.S. presidents, statues of Abraham Lincoln and Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Oklahoma
State Monument titled “The Pioneer Woman” - was commissioned to craft a bronze memorial
of Ben Milam based on drawings by architect Donald Nelson.
Discolored by green verdigris - copper corrosion - and accretions of bird guano, the Ben
Milam statue caught Marshall’s attention one day in 2001 when he drove through downtown
Cameron. Marshall negotiated with County Judge Frank Summers for years before the price
corresponded with the county budget, Summers said.
“I annoyed them enough. I just kept on,” Marshall said. “They are getting it done
cheaper than I would ever do it. I had incentive, so I gave them a discount.”
Though discolored, Marshall assessed the artwork to be in good condition, without any
loss of features, large pits or holes.
“The whole point is to have it look as original as possible,” said Marshall as he worked
from scaffold height. Left untreated, corrosion eventually would have damaged the
statue, he said.
Once finished with cleaning the corrosion, Marshall then applied a wax to coat the
metal. He instructed Summers: “Just bathe him twice a year, just hose him down.”