Sometimes a statue can be a thought provoker and that is how it was with the statue of Robert Gilmour LeTourneau, better known as R.G. LeTourneau. While looking for the Luthy Botanical Gardens I spied the statue by the Glen Oak Park tennis courts where the statue has always sat. I just learned that at the end of August, this beautiful statue will receive a bit of TLC, and then is being moved to the Wheel’s O Time Museum.
From my antique tractor and machinery background I recognized the name LeTourneau as a machinery icon, although the quote at the bottom of the statue rings to his faith rather than his inventions. The quote reads from the Book of Matthew, verse 33: “But seek ye first the Kingdom Of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”
Known as “God’s Businessman”, R.G. LeTourneau had a factory in Peoria, Illinois, but his story begins in November of 1888 when he was born in Richford, Vermont, left home in 1902 and ended up in Portland, Oregon where he secured a position as an apprentice ironmonger, then moved on to San Francisco securing a job at the Moore and Scott Iron Works.
Work at the iron works came to a halt with the San Francisco earthquake and fire. After the fire, work was hard to find and over the next few years, he labored at a variety of jobs. At the Yerba Buena Power plant he learned to weld and he worked at other manual jobs that expanded his experience in the manual trades acquiring skills that later in life would allow him to secure around 299 patents and become an inventor of an array of earthmoving machinery.
According to his online museum, “These 299 inventions included the bulldozer, scrapers of all sorts, dredgers, portable cranes, rollers, dump wagons, bridge spans, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration, the electric wheel and many others.”
I found it fascinating to learn that his last business efforts were ongoing when he was in his 70’s. LeTourneau lived until June of 1969 and changed the world of earth moving forever.
But as the quote on his statue shared, that was just a small part of who he was. Information I read shared that he was known to contribute about 90% of his wealth to charities and he was a faith leader keeping God first in everything.
His workers loved him; I learned that it was through the efforts of retired employees who formed the LeTourneau Memorial Association that the statue came about. They raised $25,000 in donations to build the 12-foot bronze memorial that was designed by Keith Knoblock. You may want to go to the amazing Wheel’s O Time Museum and check out this statue along with a ton of cool agricultural history.
If you see an interesting statue, stop, you never know just what thought processes it will awaken!