Consistent with his philosophy of the citizen legislator and loyal to his pledge to serve no more than two Senate terms, United States Senator William H. Frist of Tennessee retired in 2007. During his 12 years of service, Senate Republicans elected Frist their party leader in 2003, making him the 18th person in history to serve as Senate majority leader. As leader, he was instrumental in the passage of legislation to fight HIV/AIDS globally, modernize Medicare to include prescription drug coverage for seniors, reduce taxes, and achieve K-12 education reform.
Senator Frist selected sixth-generation Tennessee artist Michael Shane Neal to execute his portrait. After Neal prepared preliminary oil sketches to show various settings and poses, Frist’s family and friends chose their favorite, the “mantle portrait.” The three-quarter-length portrait depicts Frist with his arm draped over a carved fireplace mantle. The 19th-century mantle and gilded mirror are notable features of the Republican Leader’s suite in the U.S. Capitol. The prominent placement of the senator’s hand alludes to Frist’s career as a heart surgeon. Small details include the senator’s pin worn on his lapel and Senate cufflinks, a gift from his wife.
Michael Shane Neal received his art degree in 1991 from David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee. The Portrait Society of America awarded him its prestigious grand prize for the 2001 International Portrait Competition. Neal has executed more than 500 portraits of United States senators, ambassadors, federal judges, and corporate and civic leaders. Neal also completed the portrait of Arthur H. Vandenberg, which adorns the wall of the Senate Reception Room, as well as the portrait of Robert C. Byrd, also in the Senate collection.