Mt. Vernon Register-News

April 24, 2008

State Supreme Court coming to town to celebrate Lincoln statue dedication

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MT. VERNON — As part of a ribbon-cutting celebration commemorating a new sculpture of Abraham Lincoln during his young attorney days, the Illinois Supreme Court will not only be in attendance for the event at the Appellate Courthouse here in September, but it will also hear at least one case prior to the ceremony.

And the judges will meet in the only active courtroom where Lincoln practiced and appeared, according to Mark Hassakis, Mt. Vernon Lincoln Bicentennial Committee Chairman.

“This may be the first of Supreme Court visits [to the Appellate Courthouses],” remarked Hassakis, who added that with discussion of plans to renovate the courthouse in Springfield, the justices may see this as an opportunity to visit all the appellate courthouses in the state. “We’re the first visit,” he said.

Following the hearing, the Supreme Court justices will adjourn to the ribbon cutting and are expected to make remarks regarding the sculpture, along with members of the 5th Appellate Court and Illinois Bar Association. Incoming IBA president Jack Carey of Belleville is also expected to comment, Hassakis said.

The statue will be erected on the northeast corner of the Appellate Courthouse in a manner which will not interfere with the aesthetics of the courthouse staircase.

Earlier this month it was reported more than $60,000 in pledges and donations has been received by the Mt. Vernon Lincoln Bicentennial Committee in its efforts to raise $90,000 to purchase the 9-foot-tall statue of Lincoln. Alan Cottrill of Ohio has been commissioned to create the bronze sculpture of a young Lincoln in his early days as an attorney, with his signature top hat and briefcase. Cottrill has been working on the full-size statue in his Ohio studio and was scheduled to send another series of pictures of progress of the sculpture.

St. Mary’s School and District 80 students have also spearheaded fundraisers, collecting coins to add to the project’s coffers. Most recently, the Pioneers, a seniors group at First United Methodist Church, recently heard a program by City Manager Ron Neibert on the project and presented Neibert with a $1,345 donation.

“It’s amazing,” Hassakis said. “Some of the [older] members of the community who have heard about the project realize the benefit and educational interest to the region. We’ve been getting all kinds of amounts of donations. It’s a joy to see how a project is bringing the community together.”

Hassakis hopes all donors will be recognized the day of the celebration.

Plans have also been in the works regarding call-ins from across the nation regarding Lincoln’s life; however, Hassakis cautions these plans “may or may not come to fruition.”

In addition to the expected arrival of Illinois Supreme Court Justice George Bus, a 6-foot 2 inch re-enactor of Lincoln will be attending the celebration. “We’re very lucky to secure him for that day,” Hassakis commented, “because he’s journeying to Mattoon to re-enact the Lincoln-Douglas debate.”