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Indiana State Legislator Boone County Circuit Court Judge
State House Rotunda
2nd floor, Facing south,
Pittsylvania Co., Virginia
Stephen Neal was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on June 11, 1817 (son of John Neal and Priscilla Craddock). His family moved to Kentucky when he was just 2 years old.18 As he grew up, Stephen Neal learned how to work on and run a farm. He had the chance to attend school for a few months, in which time he learned how to read and write.19 When Neal was 15 years old, his mother passed away. A year later, his father offered him the opportunity to pursue a profession. Neal opted to live with and work for a neighbor who had a large collection of books. A school teacher and Latin and Greek scholar, Thomas Nelson, also lived at that residence.20
After two years of residence with his neighbor, Stephen Neal decided to attend school. He attended a country school for one year, and then entered the academy at Moorefield, Kentucky. At the age of 22, Neal became a school teacher near Moorefield. In 1839, Stephen Neal married Frances Ann Atkinson and in 1841 they moved to Madison, Indiana where Neal began to study law in the office of Hon. Joseph G. Marshall. After only one year of study, Neal became licensed to practice law in Kentucky.21
Though he only spent one year in Madison, Indiana, Stephen Neal decided that he would ultimately like to live and work in the state, and in 1843 he relocated his family once again to Indiana. This time, they moved to Lebanon in Boone County.22 In 1843, Neal opened the county seminary and served for one year as the first teacher.23 In 1846, Neal was elected to represent Boone County in the Indiana state legislature.24 While serving, he introduced a resolution changing methods of granting divorces in Indiana. The bill, which was passed into law, gave the power to grant divorces to the individual county courts. Prior to then, the state legislature had been in charge of granting divorces.25 Stephen Neal was an opponent to slavery, and he helped to form the Boone County Republican Party in 1856, remaining a member of that party until 1888.26
Stephen Neal is most remembered for his role in the drafting of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is alleged that he wrote a draft of the proposed amendment in 1866 and sent that draft to Godlove S. Orth, a former Indiana state legislator and then U.S. Representative to Congress.27 There has been some debate as to the legitimacy of this claim, and to this day it is uncertain as to whether or not Neal actually drafted the 14th Amendment. He is still given credit in most sources.
Stephen Neal was elected to the Boone County Circuit Court in 1890, where he served until his retirement in 1896.28 Stephen Neal died on June 23, 1905 in Lebanon, Indiana from an illness which he had suffered from for weeks. Obituaries around the country gave him credit for authoring the first draft of the 14th Amendment.29
The bust of Judge Stephen Neal was commissioned in 1907, along with two other copies, by Charles Neal, one of Judge Neal's sons. Mr. Neal chose a local Indiana artist named Clara Barth Leonard to execute the three works, one of which was presented to the Indiana State Library, the second of which was presented to the Lebanon, Indiana library, and the third of which remained in his possession. The third bust was eventually presented to the Boone County Courthouse in Lebanon, Indiana.30 A small plaster cast of Stephen Neal was donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art by Clara Barth Leonard, and is listed in the collection, though it has been lost since 1929.31
In order to create the most accurate portrait of Judge Neal, who had by this time been dead for three years, Clara Barth Leonard sculpted the facial features using photographs of him taken during life, as well as his death mask. A life-long friend of Judge Neal, Louis Gibson, shared his suggestions as well, later praising Leonard for her efforts. The bust of Judge Neal was presented to the Indiana State Library during a ceremony conducted on July 10, 1908 at 10 o'clock in the morning. The ceremony was attended by a small number of interested parties, including Charles Neal and Clara Barth Leonard. Union B. Hunt, Secretary of State at the time, gave a speech regarding Stephen Neal and his contributions to the State of Indiana, namely as the author of the original draft of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.32
The copy of the bust which was donated to the Indiana State Library was moved to the outer Rotunda in the State House in 1930. A copy of the bust stands atop Neal’s gravestone.33
Clara Barth Leonard Sorenson Dieman (1877–1959) was a relatively unknown female sculptor, painter and teacher from Indianapolis. Between 1907 and 1916, Leonard taught introductory sculpture classes at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis. In 1917, she graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago, and she later studied at Columbia University as well. During her career as a sculptor, Leonard frequently worked in portraiture, completing a bas-relief of William A. Bell for the Indianapolis school of the same name, and in 1916, a bronze memorial plaque in honor of Shortridge High School custodian James Biddy. She participated in a number of art exhibitions across the United States; in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Santa Fe, where she spent the latter part of her life.34