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To the editor:
I write in praise of fellow Lincoln, Illinois,
Bicentennial Commissioner Paul Beaver, professor emeritus of history
at Lincoln College, for receiving The Courier's Citizen of the Year
award for 2008. Paul richly deserves this honor and recognition.
Often, people who teach in higher education are stereotyped as
obsessively pursuing specialized research projects of interest only
to a few like-minded experts -- of living in an ivory tower and
"piling higher and deeper." Paul's example, as described in The
Courier's recent article announcing the award, clearly gives the lie
to that myth.
Paul's lifework teaches that academics can and should apply their
expertise to the challenging arena of community service. Paul has
for many years worked tirelessly "to take history public." His
efforts continue to improve our understanding of the unique heritage
of Lincoln and Logan County, and throughout his long career, he has
been actively but quietly engaged in promoting that heritage to
attract visitors to the heart of the Land of Lincoln.
I confess that in recent years some of my work, too, has had
these purposes, and Paul's example has been instructive and
inspirational to me. Here, I briefly explain. As a faculty member at
Missouri State University, I was encouraged to apply its main
mission of promoting public affairs toward my research and writing
for publication. One way I chose to do so has been developing and
promoting the Lincoln community history Web site for the purpose of
increasing civic pride and heritage tourism.
The publications of Paul Beaver and Paul Gleason as well as Nancy
Gehlbach and Sam Redding's fabulous Our Times have been essential to
my research for that project, and the Lincoln history Web site
includes extensive borrowings and citations of those various works.
Additionally, Paul's "History of Logan County 1982" was especially
useful as a model for writing history with an emphasis on
collaboration. That remarkable book results from the combined work
of dozens of people he directed. The book, available in the Lincoln
Public Library, includes personal experience accounts that he and
many other local citizens provided, and those accounts produce
"human interest," truly bringing history alive.
In developing my community history Web site, I followed the
example of Paul's 1982 history by locating many alums of Lincoln
Community High School from the mid-20th century. Some live in
Lincoln, but most are scattered throughout the nation. For several
years I e-mailed those folks to invite them to contribute
remembrances and photos. These contributions greatly enrich that
online history, covering a wide range of topics, including the local
gambling raids of the 1950s and William Maxwell's treatment of
blacks from Lincoln, Ill. These subjects had not previously been
included in local histories.
[to top of second column in this letter]
Also, more recently Paul has supported my work on the Abraham
Lincoln Bicentennial Commission of Lincoln, Illinois. In fact, he
(along with Ron Keller and Wanda Lee Rohlfs) recommended me for
membership on this commission. That appointment encouraged me to
research and create the play script for the re-enactment of the 1858
Abe rally and speech and to write the article about it that will
appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of the Illinois State
For these reasons, I heartily congratulate Paul Beaver and his
family. And I compliment The Courier for honoring Paul with its
For more information about Paul's history scholarship, including
sample pages from his books and a 1970 photo of him on the job with
the late, legendary Lincoln College president Raymond Dooley, see
D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D.
Professor emeritus of English
Missouri State University, Springfield, Mo.
P.S. The tribute expressed in this message has been published in
PDF format under "News and Announcements" on the Lincoln, Illinois,
Bicentennial Commission page:
findinglincolnillinois/abes200th-lincolnil.html#news. That page
also has a link to newspaper articles describing the plans of the
first Lincoln namesake city for the Lincoln Centennial Celebration
(1909). I am grateful to Richard Sumrall and Joyce Sutz for
providing those articles. They identify the committee members and
the featured speaker of the 1909 celebration. I am researching those
people and am working on an article about them and the celebration.
Well before Feb. 12, I will publish this article as a PDF on the
bicentennial page and let you know. I think many readers will find
it very interesting to compare the backgrounds of the 1909 Lincoln
Centennial Celebration Committee members to the backgrounds of the
present commissioners, and readers may also enjoy learning about the
featured speaker at that celebration: Dr. Euclid B. Rogers, a
Baptist minister from Springfield, Ill., who was well-known
throughout the Midwest for his oratory in the pulpit and on the
chautauqua circuit. Yet he had somewhat of a checkered past, as I
will be explaining.
January 14, 2009]
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