Matthias honored with bust dedication in Richland

Richland's streets are named for prominent figures from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The city's Leslie Groves Park is named for the U.S. Army general who oversaw the entirety of the Manhattan Project, the original mission of the Hanford site.

And now the man who directed Hanford's construction and built the city that housed its workers then and now has recognition that was a long time coming.

About 200 people crowded in front of the Richland Public Library on Saturday to dedicate a bust of Col. Franklin T. Matthias, who died in 1993. Community, military and government leaders hailed the achievement of such a vast project and how it still fuels the region's economy

Matthias' son, Michael Matthias, said his father's work here in the 1940s, was of an unprecedented scale, but his father had no doubt it could be done.

"He had a complete disregard for the word 'impossible,' " Michael Matthias said.

Richland resident Karen Miles spearheaded the project to honor Col. Matthias. The bust, designed by Michael Salazar and cast by Ron Gerton, was installed earlier this week in a landscape designed by Tim Montgomery and lighted by Roger Gibson.

Officials detailed Col. Matthias' connections to the community. Lt. Col. Andrew Kelly, Walla Walla district commander for the Army Corps of Engineers, discussed the colonel's discovery of the Hanford area and how he expounded upon the quality of gravel deposited there in a formal report.

Several talked about the immensity of the project Franklin Matthias was given as commander of construction for the Hanford Engineers Works and city of Richland.

His workers built nuclear reactors and related facilities but also hundreds of miles of highways and railroads, numerous homes, grocery stores and anything else needed.

"These were the days of slide rules and hand-crafted blueprints," said Gary Peterson, vice president of the Tri-City Development Council.

Richland Mayor John Fox said Franklin Matthias' work here is an ongoing legacy, putting the Tri-Cities on the path to future growth, creating the need for institutions such as Washington State University Tri-Cities. He made Richland into a city considered safe, family friendly and filled with some of the smartest people in the nation.

"It's clear that Col. Matthias' choice has given us something beyond what was expected," Fox said.

Michael Matthias said he and his relatives, some who traveled from across the country and world to attend the dedication, were pleased to see the colonel receive the recognition he deserves and see his work live on.

"Nobody knew when they started (Hanford) what they'd come out with," Michael Matthias told the Herald.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver