Each month, the City of Santa Clarita highlights a different piece of art in its public art collection. Following the Memorial Day holiday, the month of June highlights Mark Henn’s Willie Johnston, a bronze statue of a Civil War drummer standing proudly in the center of Veterans Historical Plaza, located at 24275 Walnut Street.
Willie Johnston was commissioned by the City of Santa Clarita in 2005. The statue depicts William J. Johnston Jr., an 11-year-old boy who was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Abraham Lincoln on September 16, 1863, for gallantry in the Seven Day Battle and Peninsula Campaign during the Civil War. Johnston stood just five feet tall and served as a drummer in Company D, Third Vermont Volunteers Infantry of the Union Army.
President Lincoln honored Johnston with the following words:
“For exemplifying the spirit of all our soldiers, and for serving your country so well, the nation has decided to honor you. May all our citizens demonstrate the devotion shown by this young man.”
Artist Mark Henn was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, and studied at Sinclair Community College and Bowling Green State University before moving west to attend California Institute of the Arts. In addition to Willie Johnston, Henn is known for his life-size monument of the Wright Brothers in Dayton and his sculpture of President Lincoln which is part of the permanent collection at the Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.
Residents are encouraged to visit Willie Johnston and all the pieces in the City’s public art collection all year.