Historic war painting comes home to Tennessee - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Historic war painting comes home to Tennessee

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Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland

CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB)-  A painting long coveted by art collectors worldwide is now in its rightful home of Tennessee.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland announced that businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones had completed the purchase of the historic  "Sergeant Alvin C. York," created in 1919 by acclaimed artist Frank Schoonover.

"This painting of Tennessee's legendary war hero is regarded as the most sought after World War I painting in history," said Rowland. "We are honored that Mr. Jones has brought it home to Tennessee, which is what Alvin and his family would have wanted."

The subject of the painting, Sergeant Alvin York, is one of America's most famous soldiers due to his remarkable act of courage in October of 1918, which is depicted in the Schoonover work.

York, a native of Pall Mall Tennessee, played a crucial role in the attack of Argonne in France. As an acting corporal, he led 17 men in action against a German stronghold.  Against a heavy German counterattack, York proceeded alone and made history by killing 17 German soldiers with a single pistol.

"The hero eventually brought in a total of 132 German prisoners -  a remarkable feat that was can all be proud of," Mayor Rowland said.  Sgt. York died in 1962.

Schoonover sold the painting originally to collector H.M. Pierce of Delaware in 1926. It was acquired by Blakeslee Gallery in Wellington, Florida in 1998.  Gary Blakeslee, who obtained the painting for the gallery, described it as "the single most patriotic piece of artwork any American could own. It is the quintessential World War I masterpiece."

Many people have attempted to purchase this painting from the Blakeslee Gallery over the years, he said, but the collector refused to part with the painting until he found the right owner.  Blakeslee said upon selling the painting to Mr. Jones, "Alvin York, the solider who many thought was cloaked by the breath of God, is finally home!"

Prior to being acquired by Allan Jones, the painting had been on loan to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum.  Jones said having the painting back in Alvin York's home state was key to his decision to purchase the historic work. "I was aware of this painting for many years but never thought it would become available," said Jones. "When I learned that Mr. Blakelee would consider a sale to the right buyer, I felt it was important to have the painting here. This is an important day for Bradley County and Tennessee."

Jones, the founder and CEO of Check Into Cash, Inc., made headlines earlier this year with a donation to the non-profit organization Tennessee Achieves. The donation made it possible for every graduating senior in Bradley County selected by the organization to attend community college.

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