How A Missouri Town Keeps Winston Churchill's Legacy Alive
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The United States is in a time that gets many people thinking about Winston Churchill. You know, he was Britain's prime minister at the worst moments of World War II, the darkest hour, as he called it. And regardless of their politics, some Americans feel we're in a dark time now. Churchill is the subject of some well-timed studies - a book about Churchill by Tom Ricks, a movie out today starring Gary Oldman and a town in Missouri is highlighting its special connection to Churchill.
Here's Alex Heuer of St. Louis Public Radio.
ALEX HEUER, BYLINE: Following victory in World War II, Winston Churchill's party lost an election and he was forced to resign as prime minister. One of the many invitations Churchill received was to give a lecture at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. And it included a remarkable postscript.
TIMOTHY RILEY: This is a wonderful school in my home state. Hope you can do it. If you come, I will introduce you, Harry S. Truman.
HEUER: That's Timothy Riley, who heads the National Churchill Museum at the college. The small liberal arts school is about 100 miles west of St. Louis and in 1946 had only 212 students. Riley says Churchill accepted the invitation to deliver what became one of the iconic speeches of the 20th century known as the "Iron Curtain Speech" that foreshadowed the Cold War.
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WINSTON CHURCHILL: From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.
HEUER: Fifteen years later, college leaders wanted to pay tribute to Churchill and his connection to their school and did something most unusual. They acquired the stones from a church in central London that was heavily damaged by the German Luftwaffe during the war.
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HEUER: Traditional music from a pipe organ fills St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury Church, originally built in London in the 12th century. There are only 13 rows of pews, including a center aisle. The altar and pulpit have intricate wood carvings. Beautiful chandeliers hang from the ceiling and are adorned with brass pineapples, a signature design element of the church's architect, Christopher Wren.
Wren redesigned this church and more than 50 others in London, including St. Paul's Cathedral, after they were destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666. Riley says St. Mary's and Churchill have a lot in common.
RILEY: It was knocked down twice and rebuilt like Churchill and his career, his long and storied career. He always persevered. He kept coming back.
HEUER: To get the church to the United States, workers shipped 700 tons of stone to Virginia. It then went by rail to St. Louis before being trucked to Fulton. Recently a group of high school students were touring the church and Museum. Their teacher, Sandra Schaefer (ph), says her students love that they're able to visit a place with such a strong historical link.
SANDRA SCHAEFER: It comes alive for them. They can see it, they can touch it. They have a visual in front of them. And for me, it seems that they're paying attention. They get more out of it because they'll remember more.
HEUER: Meta Young (ph) works at the museum here and considers it more than a job.
META YOUNG: It's become a passion. It just gets to your heart. There hasn't been a great leader like Churchill.
HEUER: And his perseverance is reinforced here by a centuries-old church that also persevered, making its way stone by stone from central London to the middle of Missouri. For NPR News, I'm Alex Heuer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.