Arthur Middleton was the product of a broken home. He believed that he could be a better father than his own, who left his mother when he was only three years old. He strived to “do better” for his young sons William and Thomas.
In 1979, Arthur Middleton enrolled his boys in the Cub Scouts and later assumed a leadership role in the Great Smoky Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was founded on the premise of “teaching boys moral and ethical values through an outdoor program that challenges them and teaches them respect for nature, one another, and themselves.”
Arthur Middleton was obsessed with his son’s fulfillment of merit badge requirements, which are considered to be a “character-building tool.”
In 1983, the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award for Distinguished Service to Youth. The award inspired Middleton to initiate an ambitious series of portrait paintings of U.S. Presidents in order to help his sons fulfill the Art and American Heritage badge requirements.
Using small reproductions of paintings from the 1982 Colliers Encyclopedia and referring to a book titled Portrait Painting Made Easy, Arthur Middleton produced a series of thirty-nine acrylic paintings on masonite. Few think that the Middleton boys had much to do with the creation of these paintings. When completed, the series depicting George Washington to Ronald Reagan was installed in the Community Room of the Blount County Optimist Club.
In 1987, Arthur Middleton, who worked for Goodyear Tire was transferred out of state. The following year, George and Helen Spelvin bought the complete series at a rummage sale sponsored by the Optimist Club. Twelve of the paintings have been selected for inclusion in this traveling exhibition.
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