Plans are being presented for an Inner Harbor statue of former Mayor Clarence Du Burns at a meeting of the Public Art Commission. We
(Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

A bronze statue of Baltimore's first African-American mayor can join a statue of former Mayor William Donald Schaefer on the west shore of the Inner Harbor, a municipal panel ruled Wednesday.

Baltimore's Public Art Commission voted 6-0 to allow a city-owned parcel near the Maryland Science Center to become the permanent setting for an 8-foot-tall statue of the late Clarence H. Du Burns. The one-time high school locker room attendant rose through the ranks of city government and was mayor for 11 months in 1987.

The statue of Burns, which has already been fabricated, will be placed just off the Inner Harbor promenade, 800 feet south of the Schaefer statue. When Schaefer became governor of Maryland, City Council President Burns automatically succeeded him as mayor.

The statue of Schaefer, who served as mayor for four terms, was dedicated three years ago this month. The two statues will anchor the north and south ends of West Shore Park, symbolizing the close working relationship the men had for many years, according to planners of the Burns memorial.

The commission's decision marked the end of a six-year quest by the Clarence 'Du' Burns Memorial Fund Inc., a nonprofit group headed by a great nephew of Burns, to find an Inner Harbor location for the Burns statue.

The foundation, headed by local attorney Sean Burns, has secured $300,000 in public funds to erect the statue and intends to donate it to the city. Burns said his group hopes to have the statue in place sometime in 2013 and needed to have a permanent location identified in order to raise another $100,000 to $200,000 from private sources to complete the project.

Even though the group has site approval, it still must come back to the commission for final approval of the site plan and other design details. The panel reviews plans for statues and other works of art on city-owned property.

"Start raising your money," said commission chairman William Backstrom, after the vote. "I think we're close. I think this is going to be exciting for the city."

Burns said he was happy with the decision.

"I'm pleased that they approved the site and we can move forward," he said. "We're looking forward to working with the commission."

The statue, by Maryland artist Simmie Knox, shows Burns in a short-sleeved shirt, holding a jacket over his left shoulder and walking with a young boy carrying a book with the title "Science." Burns said it was intended to depict his great-uncle in 1987, when he served as mayor.

Burns ran for a four-year term but was defeated in the September 1987 primary by Kurt L. Schmoke, who won the general election. Burns died in 2003 at age 84.