Arrington : Bronze Statues Unveiled To Honor Nelson Natives Earl Hamner, Jr & Jimmy Fortune (Video)

Photos By Peyton Stafford : Singer songwriter Jimmy Fortune (L) and actress Kami Cotler (R) pose at the Nelson County Historical Society-Oakland Museum just south of Lovingston. Bronze statues commemorating the late Earl Hamner, Jr. and Fortune were unveiled. The ceremony was a 2 hour long program honoring and remembering Hamner & Fortune. Cotler played Elizabeth on The Watlton’s TV series. That show was inspired and created by Earl Hamner of Schuyler, VA. - Photos taken in Arrington, Virginia - Saturday - July, 8, 2023


Nelson County, Virginia

It was a joyful, sometimes tearful day, at The Nelson County Historical Society – Oakland Museum. A typical hot and humid Virginia July was the backdrop as a few hundred people packed a tent and the grounds near the museum. They were there to watch a 2 hour program that ended with the unveiling of bronze statues honoring and remembering Nelson native writer Earl Hamner, Jr and songwriter Jimmy Fortune. Fortune is best known for his years touring with The Statler Brothers. The late Hamner is best known as the creator of the highly successful 70’s TV show, The Waltons.

Above in the video, Oakland Museum volunteers remove the veil to reveal the bronze statues that honor and remember singer/songwriter Jimmy Fortune and Schuyler native writer and creator of The Waltons, Earl Hamner Jr.

Oakland Museum volunteer and program coordinator and presenter, Woody Greenberg, tells those in attendance Saturday how the idea for the statues took shape and eventually became – reality. From left to right : Jimmy Fortune (singer & honoree) Actress Kami Cotler (she played Elizabeth on The Waltons) there to speak on behalf of the cast for the late Earl Hamner, Jr. Jesse Rutherford, Nelson BOS Chair and Greenberg.

In addition to the statues being unveiled at the end of the program, Nelson Board Of Supervisors Chairman Jesse Rutherford presented a resolution from the board proclaiming June 8, 2023 at Earl Hamner, Jr and Jimmy Fortune Day.

Jimmy Fortune, singer/songwriter from Nelson County, sings three different songs to the crowd in attendance on Saturday. One of the songs he sang was a favorite of Hamner’s – Virginia Dreams.

Ironically Earl Hamner, Jr. would be 100 years old on Monday – July 10th. Hamner passed away on March 24th, 2016. (More about his passing in our post from that date)

Kami Cotler, who played Elizabeth on the series The Waltons, made the trip from the west coast to Nelson County to speak on behalf of the cast of the show and reflect on her time with Hamner during the years since her start. Cotler was cast in the original 1971 pilot, The Homecoming, that was the TV inspiration for The Waltons that ran over the next decade in the 1970s. “Nelson is beautiful as always, and there is so much more to see and do! I visited the Quarry Gardens, which are so beautiful and inspiring. I see distilleries, cider presses, breweries…I even bought coffee beans roasted in Lovingston. I hadn’t visited the NC Historical Society’s Museum. They’ve done a beautiful job and adding an exhibit on local music makes it that much more interesting. I felt honored to be included in the celebration of Earl & Jimmy, and I’ve had a lovely time catching up with my Nelson Co friends from when I lived and taught here,” she told us the next day after soaking in the weekend of events.

Above in this video, the late Earl Hamner, Jr. discusses The Homecoming. Originally inspired from a novel written By Hamner, it eventually was turned into a TV movie and ultimately The Waltons.

In addition to the honorees speaking, many other friends and celebrities reflected on their association with Hamner and Fortune. One of the former members of The Statler Brothers was on hand to say a few words. Before his former musicians spoke, Fortune told the crowd, “I said if a statue is going to be made of me, one has to be made of Earl Hamner as well.”

The statues are on display for the public to see anytime they like. They are on the front lawn of The Nelson Historical Society & Oakland Museum in Arrington, Virginia just south of Lovingston. You can learn more about the genesis of the statues and other displays honoring Hamner and Fortune by heading on over to their website here.

For a look back at our relationship with Earl Hamner, Jr. in his living years you can read our archives from past years. 



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