The 1951-54 George Washington Carver-Booker T. Washington commemorative half dollar bill was signed into law on September 21, 1951 via amendment to the Booker T. Washington coin Act of 1946. (See link below for details.) The coin had two sponsors: continuing from the original BTW coin - the Booker T. Washington Birthplace Memorial, and added in the amendment - the George Washington Carver National Mounument Foundation. Sidney. J. Phillips, the main driver behind the BTW and GWC-BTW coins was president of both organizations.
Phillips was more, however, than just a coin promoter. Independent of his coin efforts, Phillips also worked diligently to raise awareness of the lives and accomplishments of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver and to encourage African Americans to follow the ideals of the two men in their daily lives.
In 1943, the US Congress passed a bill that sought to establish a National Monument at the George Washington Carver (GWC) birthplace at Diamond, Missouri. The 1943 Act appropriated $30,000 for the task, but it proved not nearly enough to accomplish the objective. In 1949, Phillips was made aware that the original appropriation for the National Monument was inadequate and that the establishment of the Monument was in jeopardy.
Phillips quickly incorporated the George Washington Carver National Monument Foundation and began efforts to secure the funds necessary to acquire the GWC birthplace site. He lobbied Congressman and appeared at Hearings in support of the Monument. His efforts paid off!
On September 9, 1950, US President Harry S. Truman signed into law a bill that amended the 1943 Act and made the Monument a reality. As referenced above, the original 1943 Act appropriated $30,000 for the task. It was eventually realized that this would not be enough to secure the desired property from its owners and that approximately $80,000 would be needed. (Note: As the Government and property owners could not come to a traditional sale agreement, the Government was forced to condemn the property to secure it; to complete the process, the owners were to be paid for the property at prevailing local rates - the primary reason additional funds were needed vs. original appropriation.)
The amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives by James Hardin Peterson (D-FL), the then-current Chairman, Committee on Public Lands. It called for an additional $50,000 to supplement the 1943 Act (thus, $80,000 in total) plus additional funds, as needed. The bill was passed in the House, but was amended in the Senate to place a hard cap on the appropriation. The House did not agree with the Senate's amendment and a Conference was called to settle the differences.
A bill making an appropriation of $150,000 resulted from the House-Senate Conference, and was subsequently agreed to by both chambers; the revised bill was signed into law by President Truman (see above).
Following the new Law, the 210 acres of land desired for the National Monument were secured and, in June 1951, turned over to the National Park Service for development and management. The Park was dedicated in July 1953, and its first visitors center was completed and opened to the public in July 1960.
With Booker T. Washington coin sales flagging, Sidney Phillips was looking for ways to recharge his numismatic fundraiser. The successful establishment of the GWC National Monument in 1950 offered an ideal opportunity!
A quick date check reveals that Phillips, via the two birthplace memorial organizations he headed up, sponsored the BTW-GWC coin bill within months of Truman signing the National Monument Act (Coin Bill Introduced: March 1951 vs. National Monument Act: September 1950). The rest is history... (See link below.)
I can't help but wonder if Phillips had never been involved in the 1950 National Monument amendment bill effort in Congress, if the GWC-BTW coin amendment would ever had happened. It seems one possible alternate scenario is that Phillips would have continued to issue only the original BTW half dollars in the face of dwindling sales for as long as they were profitable and supported the BTW Birthplace Memorial (without a GWC coin involved). One less half dollar type!1951 George Washington Carver-Booker T. Washington Half Dollar
To read more about the GWC-BTW coin bill, see
- 1951 Carver vs. Carver-Washington
To learn more about the history of the BTW-GWC half dollar, and other commemorative coins and medals, check out: Commems Collection.