Taking another look at Gov. Otto Kerner
on April 13 will go beyond corruption charges to examine
accomplishments in mental health, education, civil rights
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[April 01, 2013]
SPRINGFIELD -- He was a
decorated soldier and a tough prosecutor. He governed a major state
and helped the nation examine racial violence. He became a federal
judge but wound up in federal prison.
Gov. Otto Kerner and his complex legacy will be the focus of an
April 13 conference presented by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum. Political experts, journalists and former Kerner
aides will gather for a reassessment of Illinois' 33rd governor.
Panels of experts will examine the goals and accomplishments of
Kerner's administration, his public and private personas, his
conviction on corruption charges, and the views of the journalists
who covered him.
The public is invited to attend this examination of an important
Illinois figure. College students studying history or political
science are particularly encouraged to attend.
The April 13 conference begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Lincoln
Presidential Library, 112 N. Sixth St. in Springfield, and includes
lunch in the library atrium.
Tickets are $50. Students with proper identification can attend
free of charge, not including lunch. To buy tickets, visit
"So many of Kerner's achievements in multiple areas -- mental
health, school reform and especially civil rights -- broke new
ground and bettered people's lives. We need to understand both his
failures and his achievements," said Eileen Mackevich, executive
director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. f
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Kerner was a Chicago Democrat who won his first term in 1960. As
governor, he modernized state services for the mentally ill and
backed a statewide system of community colleges.
His name became a household word after President Lyndon Johnson
chose him to lead the National Advisory Commission on Civil
Disorders -- known everywhere as the Kerner Commission. The panel
examined the riots flaring up in African-American neighborhoods
across the country, and it concluded that segregation and lack of
economic opportunity were driving the nation "toward two societies,
one black, one white -- separate and unequal."
Kerner left the governor's office soon after the report's release
and was appointed to the federal bench. But his time as a judge was
cut short by accusations that, as governor, he had accepted bribes
in exchange for granting favorable racing dates for an Arlington
He was convicted in 1973 for mail fraud, conspiracy, perjury and
more. Today, however, doubts remain about the case against him and
the legal theory underlying the charges.
[Text from file received from the
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency]