Scope and Contents
The William M. McVey Papers (MS 26) include 1.5 linear feet of material in two boxes, including newsclippings, correspondence, photographs related to sculptures of McVey’s, and a scrapbook with photos and mementos of his student years at the Rice Institute. Dates range from 1922-1976.
Restrictions on Use
Permission to publish from the William M. McVey Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
William M. McVey was born in Boston July 12, 1905, spent his boyhood on a farm near Worcester, Massachusetts and moved to Cleveland, Ohio with his parents in 1919. He later said that he could not remember a time when he was not drawing and modeling. After graduating from high school in 1922, he attended the Rice Institute (later University) in Houston, Texas on an athletic scholarship from 1923-1927, where he was president of his freshman class, played football for two years, and took courses in the department of architecture, including art, under John Clark Tidden, William Ward Watkin, and James Chillman. McVey transferred from Rice and returned to Cleveland’s Institute of Art to study sculpture, graduating in 1928. After a brief return to Houston he went to Paris, where he lived from 1929 to 1931 and studied at the Colarossi, Scandinave and Grand Chaumiere academies as a student of Charles Despiau. (He later recalled that when his borrowed funds ran out, he became an official tour guide in Paris to earn money.)
McVey returned to the United States to launch a career as teacher and sculptor. In March 1932 he married Leza Sullivan, a ceramist and textile artist; they had no children. McVey held a number of teaching positions, including assignments at the Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio State University, Detroit’s Cranbrook Academy of Art, Houston Museum of Art, and the University of Texas at Austin. During World War II he served in the Army Air Force both in the U.S. and in the Philippines, earning four battle stars and the rank of major. In 1953 he returned to the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he became head of the Sculpture Department.
McVey’s sculptures are found coast to coast and include portrait busts along with architectural sculpture; among his better-known sculptures are his statue of Winston Churchill in Washington, D.C., and in Texas the stone frieze at the base of the San Jacinto Monument near Houston, the Davy Crockett Memorial in Ozona, and the James Bowie Memorial in Texarkana. He also has several works around the campus of Rice University (where he received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1983), and sculptures at the Museum of Fine Arts and other public institutions in Houston.
McVey died in Cleveland, Ohio on May 30, 1995.