LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – If you stand on the corner of West Capitol Avenue and Woodlane Street and look at the Arkansas State Capitol you can’t miss them. And if you time it right, you might even get blasted by their beauty as the sun bounces off them hitting you with its bright rays of sunlight.
It is no wonder those who work there refer to them as the “jewel” of the State Capitol.
The man in charge of keeping the “jewel” of the State Capitol shining bright is Richard Adcock. Every weekday, he gathers his tools from under the Capitol steps and makes his way up the stairs to inspect his canvas, six 10-foot-tall bronze doors that weigh 1,300 pounds and are four inches thick.
Richard has been working at the Capitol for more than 20 years, but eight years ago he got a new assignment, by default.
“We had a guy years ago that was doing them. He did a great job, but he ended up getting terminated, so they offered it to me,” Adcock said.
It is not an easy job. It requires a certain mentality and a lot of dedication, mostly because polishing all the bronze doors inside and out takes between four and five hours.
“There were days when I first started that I said, ‘This is an exercise in futility.’ But the longer I did it, the more I started believing in myself and my ability,” Adcock said. “Just being able to do it period and feel blessed that I can do it.”
He begins his daily routine by applying NEVR-DULL, a “magic wadding polish” that cleans and polishes all metals. It is great at removing rust and corrosion which Richard has seen a lot of over the years.
“It gets rid of the nastiness and grittiness,” Adcock said.
After letting it set for a few minutes, he wipes it clean with several rags. Then he pulls out a can of 3M polish, a magic ingredient that gives the doors their bright and brilliant shine. In a span of just one week, he goes through at least seven cans of 3M polish.
After it dries, he yanks one of his rags out of a plastic bag and buffs the doors from top to bottom.
“I probably have one of the hardest jobs that there is at the Capitol. It is not something everybody can do,” Adcock said.
Over the years, Richard has had the pleasure of getting meaningful feedback. The bronze doors are a destination for a lot of Arkansans. Wedding pictures are often taken right in front of the bronze doors. So are prom pictures. He has also met some interesting people while buffing and polishing.
“People come from as far away as Germany to see the doors,” Adcock said. “A lot of them tell me that out of all the Capitols they’ve been to, this is one of the prettiest.”
But the biggest compliment he ever got was from former President Bush’s Labor Secretary, Elaine Chao, when she visited the Natural State.
“She told me how beautiful they looked. Compliments do not get much higher than that, other than from the President himself,” Adcock said.
He’s also heard from a few others. The doors, which have been locked to the public since 9/11 are only open on two occasions. Once every year for Santa, and whenever a newly elected governor is sworn in.
“I’ve seen Hutchinson. I’ve seen Beebe. I’ve seen Huckabee and his daughter. They tell me how beautiful they look every day,” Adcock said.
Buffing, rubbing, and polishing these “jewels” every weekday regardless of the weather can be tedious. And for some people, it is downright boring, but not for Richard.
“He does not have a radio. And he leaves his cell phone in his locker. He stays focused on the task,” Richard’s supervisor Ray Lewis said. “He is really dedicated. When he gets on something, he is like a pit bull. He is just going to hang on to it.”
Even though Richard has worked at the State Capitol for more than 20 years and polished every piece of bronze in the entire building, he has no immediate plans to put the polish and rags away for good.
He loves what he does, and he loves even more reflecting on the myriad of compliments he receives for a job well done.