Walker Kirtland Hancock, a sculptor known for his monumental war memorials, celebratory depictions of Presidents and works with religious themes, died on Wednesday at his home in Gloucester, Mass. He was 97.
In a career that nearly spanned the century, Mr. Hancock produced hundreds of realistic works, ranging from a 39-foot bronze angel in the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, which honors railroad employees killed in action in World War II, to a bust of former President George Bush in the Capitol, to a monumental statue of James Madison in the Library of Congress, to a Christ figure in the central altar in the National Cathedral in Washington.
Mr. Hancock, who taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1929 to 1967, earned a variety of honors, including the Prix de Rome and the George D. Widener Memorial Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, both in 1925, the Herbert Adams Medal of Honor from the National Sculpture Society in 1954, the National Medal of Art, conferred by the President in 1989, and the Medal of Freedom in 1990. At the American Academy in Rome, there is a sculpture studio named in his honor.
Mr. Hancock, who was born in 1901 in St. Louis, knew by grade school that creating sculpture ''was to become my consuming interest,'' he wrote in his 1997 autobiography, ''A Sculptor's Fortunes.'' Never enthusiastic about sports, he wrote, he ''preferred to model the players rather than to be one of them.'' A worried teacher told him, ''I hope you are intelligent enough to realize that you could never make a living as a sculptor.'' He knew better.
He spent a year at the School of Fine Arts at Washington University, then moved on to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied closely with Charles Grafly, long considered the premier portrait sculptor in America. During and after World War II, as a captain in the Army, he led an effort to protect national treasures and historic monuments and to identify and reclaim art stolen by the Nazis.
In 1943, he married the former Saima Natti. He first visited Gloucester, where Grafly had a summer studio, in 1921, and in 1930, he built his own studio there, traveling regularly to Philadelphia. He later moved to Gloucester full time, and continued to work in his studio there until a year or so before his death. His last big project was a flight memorial for the United States Military Academy at West Point.
An exhibition called America's Sculptural Heritage, now at City Hall in Gloucester, features work by Mr. Hancock and his contemporaries at the National Sculpture Society.
His wife died in 1984. He is survived by a daughter, Deane French of Buckland, Mass., and two grandchildren.