THE ICON: Sam Zemurray
THE LEGACY: To paint a portrait of Sam Zemurray is to paint a portrait of the American dream. He came to the United States as an 11-year-old Russian immigrant with no formal education and no money. So, he went to work, taking whatever jobs he could — including selling overripe bananas he bought for next to nothing on the docks in Mobile, Alabama. It was the start of a career for the man who would become known as “The Banana Man” and who, after relocating to New Orleans, would steer the massive United Fruit Co. His willingness to meddle in the affairs of Central American governments to benefit the company casts a shadow on his legacy, but his philanthropic work, at home in New Orleans as well in Central America, makes him one of the city’s top bananas anyway.
THE ARTIST: Maddie Stratton
THE INSPIRATION: “It has been my pleasure to have known Sam Zemurray for many, many years, and I can truthfully say that I have never met a more charitable, generous or self-effacing man.” — Times-Picayune President Leonard K. Nicholson, presenting Zemurray with the Loving Cup for 1938