By Don Lowe

When the Praying Hands Monument was originally put on display in Webb City a half century ago, it was all about hoping to help create a sense of tranquility, comfort and calmness to those who stopped by for a moment of quiet reflection during a difficult time in our nation. 

Sarah Bandy’s father, Jack Dawson, is the artist who designed and constructed Praying Hands. She recalls that her dad “was finishing his art studies at Missouri Southern State College and beginning his career as an art teacher at Webb City High School during the increasing protests over the Vietnam War.

“Many Americans were clinging to symbols of peace, and my dad was interested in providing a symbol of spiritual values and guidance for the community of Webb City.”

As for his mindset at that time, Dawson explains, “I felt that what we need is peace … but I know that if we get peace, we’re going to have to pray for it.

“I just wanted to do something that would be an everlasting reminder to the passing public to take time to stop and pray.”

Webb City Mayor Lynn Ragsdale says, “Every town or city has something that makes it unique, and for us it’s the Praying Hands Monument. What began as a college art project with a message, has become the monument known around the world and it attracts many visitors each year.

“Created during the tumultuous 1960s and ‘70s, the message was pure and hopeful. ‘Hands in Prayer. World in Peace.’ Our nation was still wrecked by Vietnam and then Watergate. Riots and protests seemed to be tearing our nation apart. The monument in our city is as profound and important now as it was then.”

Bandy says they continue to receive many comments on the hopeful message of the monument. “Today, the Praying Hands statue is seen by travelers all over the world and is a major attraction for those visitors passing along Route 66,” Bandy explains.

Sitting on the edge of the picturesque 144-acre King Jack Park, Bandy says the monument continues to be a symbol of peace and strength for the community and visitors alike.

“The Webb City Chamber of Commerce immediately began receiving letters of support and encouragement from people who found the sculpture a welcome relief from the tensions of the day,” Bandy says. “There has been extensive newspaper coverage about the installation throughout the Midwest, all the way across the seas.”

During the 1974 dedication ceremony, U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor shared his thoughts on the significance of the Praying Hands Monument: “Prayer can be the strength of the individual. It is one of the simple necessities of life.”

Ragsdale shares what the sculpture symbolizes to him as an individual and as the mayor. “For me personally, it speaks of prayer, peace and hope,” Ragsdale says. “If those remain the core values of Webb City, we are all in a great place. As mayor, that makes me proud.” 

Photograph by Steve Head

“The monument in our city is as profound

and important now as it was then.”

Mayor Lynn Ragsdale, reflecting on the

50th anniversary of the Praying Hands Monument

 Praying Hands Monument Fast Facts 

Visitor’s Center: In November 2020, a ceramic tile mural was added to the back side of Praying Hands to tell the history of its creation and display personal pictures of what Jack Dawson’s creation process looked like. 

Physical Address: Alongside Highway 71, not far from Main Street in Webb City (King Jack Park) 

More Information: Webb City Chamber of Commerce at 417.673.1154 

Materials: Steel and concrete 

Size: Estimated at 32 feet high and weighing 100 tons


– August 3, 1971, the Webb City Park Board authorized an agreement between the City of Webb City and the Webb City Historical Society for the installation of the Praying Hands statue at the northwest corner of King Jack Park. 

– The idea was conceived by Jack Dawson, a young artist native to Webb City. 

– The project was made possible by the support of then-Mayor Robert Patrick and Reverend Alfred Jenkins, the Historical Society Chairman, as well as donations from the community. 

– Approximately $3,000 was raised to pay for materials to build the statue and install the lighting and landscaping around the statue. 

– The statue took approximately two years to complete. 

– During the first year, Dawson and his uncle, Loren Lynn, an industrial welder, built the steel base. 

– After creating a scale model, they prepared a superstructure out of 10-inch beams and metal lathe. Steel supports were driven deep into the ground and steel rods were placed throughout the structure. All the steel was erected in the backyard of 811 West 3rd Street, the first home of Jack and Nancy Dawson. 

– The structure was moved by crane and flatbed truck to its permanent home at King Jack Park. Dawson, with the help of workers from Greenwood Plastering Company, began layering plaster concrete on the structure. 

– Dawson artistically molded the veins, knuckles and nails so they would depict hands of an everyday, hardworking laborer. 

– It was dedicated April 28, 1974.