The program marks its 10th anniversary today, Sept. 1. The past
decade has seen ALPLM staff and volunteers interview nearly 800
people, generating 2,200 hours of audio and video.
The Oral History Program captures the memories of people who made
history, preserving insights and details that documents alone cannot
record. The program also produces teacher resources that allow these
stories to be used in today’s classrooms.
“The oral history program at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum is a wonderful resource for this and future
generations,” said Alan Lowe, the presidential library’s executive
director. “We are proud of the work that has been done preserving
our shared history, and want to thank our terrific staff, led by Dr.
Mark DePue, and all of those who have supported our efforts in oral
DePue has directed the program since its inception, overseeing the
work of others and interviewing more than 240 people – sometimes
many times over a period of months.
His most memorable interview subjects include:
Cecil ‘Tuck’ Belton, a B-17 co-pilot whose plane went down over
Holland during World War II. He spent months working with the Dutch
underground pretending to be deaf and mute.
Mary Lee Leahy, the attorney who took the Rutan political patronage
challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, forever
changing Illinois government.
Dawn Clark Netsch, a leader in the fight for the Equal Rights
Amendment in Illinois, and Phyllis Schlafly, the amendment’s most
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Governor Jim Thompson
with Mark DePue
Governor Jim Thompson, who
talks about the notorious night the clocks stopped during debate in
the Illinois House. Once the clocks started again, the legislature
had approved funding for a new White Sox stadium.
Vince Speranza, the 101st Airborne paratrooper and Battle of the
Bulge survivor who has been immortalized by the citizens of Belgium
with his own beer – Airborne Beer.
Bob Rogers, whose company designed exhibits at the Lincoln
Presidential Library and Museum that have inspired people from
around the world. His discussion of balancing scholarship with
showmanship offers rare insights into the creative process.
“It’s been my great honor over these past ten years to meet some of
Illinois’s most fascinating people, individuals from all walks of
life who have lived meaningful lives and made history in the
process,” DePue said. “We’ve accomplished a lot, and much of the
credit goes to an incredibly talented and dedicated group of
volunteers and interns who do everything from conducting interviews
to transcribing, editing and processing them.”
To hear the interviews and read transcripts, visit
www.OralHistory.illinois.gov. The list of projects
includes Agriculture in Illinois, Immigrant Stories, Illinois
Statecraft and Veterans Remember.
Dr. DePue will be a featured speaker Oct. 6 at the annual Conference
on Illinois History. He will discuss the program’s creation and
development, his dedicated group of volunteers and interns, and
share some of his favorite stories from the program’s first decade.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, a division of
the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, holds an unparalleled
collection of Lincoln documents, photographs, artifacts and art. It
uses that collection, modern technology and traditional
story-telling to connect visitors to the 16th president. Learn more