Lincolnite Art Whitham recognized as Carnegie Hero for life-saving action

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[March 24, 2020] 

When the Lincoln City Council met on Monday, March 16th, Mayor Seth Goodman was able to share a special announcement concerning Lincoln resident Art Whitham. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission has announced that Whitham is one of 18 Carnegie Medal recipients for 2020.

Whitham will be receiving this special recognition due to his heroic actions in saving the life of George Horn on a slick and cold day in December, 2018.

On December 18th, Horn, whom many of us know as the fun and friendly white haired man who works at Big R in Lincoln, was driving his car on an icy south of Lincoln on Route 121. The car began to spin and slid off the road and into a nearby pond.

Whitham was driving on that same road and witnessed the accident. He stopped his vehicle and rushed into the freezing water to assist Horn. Water was filling the car, and Horn was trying to get free. Whitham used his strength to help push down the driver side window and assisted Horn out of the vehicle. The pair made their way to the rear of the car that was not submerged and waited there for a rescue team to come out and help them to shore.

Horn was taken to the hospital and treated for hypothermia. Whitham was wet and cold but uninjured and required no medical treatment.

In a subsequent interview with local media, Horn said that at the time of the accident, he did not know the man who had come to his rescue. Through a co-worker at Big R, Horn was able to discover that it was Whitham and went on to meet Whitham face to face to thank him for his heroic efforts.

Whitham is a member of the United Riders of Central Illinois and said that he had in the past participated in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympic with his club members. He said that going into the water, he knew ahead of time, the sudden shock that his body would experience and was prepared mentally for that impact. At that moment his only thought was on helping someone who had suddenly found themselves in a very bad situation.

When Goodman made the announcement at the city council meeting he shared that the Carnegie Medal for heroism was established in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie. Since that time 10,153 people have been recognized for their selfless heroic actions in saving or attempting to save the lives of others in emergency situation.

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Carnegie established the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission after a mining disaster near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania where 181 lives were lost. Among those lives lost were an engineer and a miner who went into the collapsed mine to try and help those who were trapped.

Carnegie established the Commission’s Deed of Trust and set aside $5,000,000 to start the fund. The fund was “to recognize persons in peaceful vocations who act to preserve or rescue their fellows.” Recipients receive a medal that is inscribed with scripture “Greater love had no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The commission also established a fund that would provide monetary grants, scholarship assistance and death benefits. As of 2020 more than $40 million has been awarded to various recipients.

Documents provided to Goodman with the announcement shared that acts of heroism are brought to the attention of the commission. The acts are “carefully evaluated, and those that appear to have award potential are then investigated and reported to the commission for decision.”

Thank you to Art Whitham, for going above and beyond to help someone in need. The community is proud of your unselfish act and thankful that we all still get to see George when we go to Big R!

George is excellent at his job helping customers choose seed for lawns, gardens and feeding birds.

[Nila Smith]

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