Lipscomb alum Michael Shane Neal (’92) helped unveil the official portrait of Bill Frist, former majority leader of the United States Senate, March 2, 2011 at a ceremony held in the Old Senate Chamber at the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.
In attendance was former President George W. Bush as well as a number of former senators including Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), John Warner (R-Va.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Spencer Abraham (R-Mich.) and many current senators. MSNBC host Chris Matthews was also spotted in the crowd. In addition, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former secretaries Elaine Chao and Donald Rumsfeld and members of the Frist family were also in attendance.
Frist was first elected to the Senate in 1994 and served as majority leader from 2003-07 before retiring after two terms in the legislative body.
The painting by Neal depicts Frist in the Republican leader’s office in the Capitol wearing a dark suit, light blue shirt with a white collar and a dark red tie. His left arm is draped over an 18th century mantle of a stately, white marble fireplace and his right hand is in his pocket. Frist’s portrait now hangs along side those of former majority leaders as part of the Leadership Portrait Collection of the U.S. Senate.
A highlight of the occasion was a rare appearance in Washington by former President George W. Bush who said at the unveiling "It takes a really good friend to get me to come back to Washington.” Calling Frist "a man of accomplishment," Bush noted that he appreciated the fact that Frist "lived by the call, 'to whom much is given, much is required.'"
"Bill Frist never has forgotten the role of the individual in the work that he does," said current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Going on to describe Frist's humanitarian work, which has taken him to Africa multiple times. "We know he appreciates the title of humanitarian more than the one for which we honor him with this portrait today, and because he does, we appreciate him," he said.
Before unveiling the portrait, Frist told the audience that his portrait really represents an era in the history of an institution that keeps "the pulse of democracy" beating.
Neal’s portrait sittings with Frist took place in the Capitol and Neal’s private studio in Nashville. Neal said he hoped his portrait captured the Senator in a relaxed yet strong pose characteristic of this “compassionate and focused leader."
Neal has been a professional artist for 20 years. His work is included in public and private collections throughout the United States. Among the youngest artists ever collected by the United States Senate, Neal’s most recent commissions include such notables as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and actor Morgan Freeman. His official portrait of former Governor Phil Bredesen was unveiled in December 2010.