Country Music Trailblazer, Charley Pride Honored With Statue On Ryman Auditorium’s Icon Walk

Pride’s statue sits alongside statues of Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Bill Monroe.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

April 18, 2023

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Charley Pride; Photos by Ben De Rienzo, Catherine Powell

Charley Pride has been honored for his many years in the country music industry with a bronze statue on the Ryman Auditorium’s Icon Walk.

The late country icon’s detailed statue was added to the permanent outdoor exhibition on the historic venue’s grounds alongside the likeness of several other legends including Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Bill Monroe. With these statues, each of the country music trailblazers will always be remembered for their significant contributions to the venue and Music City.

Charley Pride Statue; Photo by Catherine Powell on behalf of Ryman Auditorium
Charley Pride Statue; Photo by Catherine Powell on behalf of Ryman Auditorium

“Charley Pride broke barriers and defied stereotypes, becoming one of the most successful and beloved country music artists of all time,” said Ryman Hospitality Properties Executive Chairman Colin Reed. “The Ryman Icon Walk honors not only his contributions and the groundwork he laid for countless other artists in country music, but also to the Ryman, where he performed many times throughout his career. Charley’s influence will always be felt throughout the entire Nashville community, and his addition to the Ryman Icon Walk is our way of paying tribute to his incredible talent and enduring legacy.”

Charley Pride Statue; Photo by Catherine Powell on behalf of Ryman Auditorium
Charley Pride Statue; Photo by Catherine Powell on behalf of Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman team collaborated once again with artist Ben Watts, the talent behind the existing three statues for the tribute to Pride which took a year to create.

During the grand unveiling of Pride’s statue, his wife, Rozene, and his son, Dion, both shared a few heartfelt words about the “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger” singer. 

“He has often been called the Jackie Robinson of country music,” Rozene said to the crowd. “The only difference was Jackie Robinson was picked for the role. Pride picked country music because he loved it and that was his life.”

Charley Pride's wife and son, Rozene and Dion, pose with his life-size statue after it was unveiled on the Ryman's Icon Walk; Photo by Catherine Powell
Charley Pride’s wife and son, Rozene and Dion, pose with his life-size statue after it was unveiled on the Ryman’s Icon Walk; Photo by Catherine Powell

Dian added, “He loved his fans – in fact, his fans drove him. All of you drove him. You are the reason why he was the success he was. Everything he did was for you.”

On December 12, 2020, the country icon passed away in Dallas, Texas from complications due to COVID-19. He was 86 years old. 

“It is with great sadness that we confirm that Charley Pride passed away this morning, Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86,” a statement on his official Facebook page read. “He was admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus.”

Charley Pride; Photo by Ford Fairchild
Charley Pride; Photo by Ford Fairchild

The statement continued, “Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously.”

Following his death, Pride’s life and legacy was celebrated with musical tributes from Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Gladys Knight, Lee Ann Womack, Luke Combs, Mickey Guyton, Wynonna Judd and Pride’s son Dion during CMT Giants: Charley Pride. 

During his 50+ years as a recording artist, Pride enjoyed one of the most successful careers in country music history and is credited with helping break color barriers by becoming the first black superstar within the genre.

Charley Pride; Photo Courtesy of Joseph Llanes
Charley Pride; Photo Courtesy of Joseph Llanes

Over the course of his career, Pride earned three GRAMMY awards, sold tens of millions of records worldwide and delivered 41 chart-topping country hits including “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” a massive No. 1 crossover hit that sold over a million singles. This song also landed Pride the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award in 1971 and the “Top Male Vocalist” awards of 1971 and 1972.

Charley Pride performed his music throughout the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Fans will now have the chance to visit at pay their respects to the Grand Ole Opry member’s statue, which can be found at the northwest corner of the Ryman near the venue’s driveway on Fifth Avenue.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.