Saturday, February 7, 2009

In memory of another Lincoln buff

The closer we get to Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the more I think of a “friend” I never met in person who would have liked to celebrate this with us.

About ten years ago, I submitted my first freelance book review to The State Journal-Register of Springfield (Ill.). I had a special interest in the literature and history of Illinois and so did the book page editor, Doug Pokorski. Yet, he unselfishly sent several Lincoln books my way during the two years I wrote for the paper.

This man knew Lincoln, and he knew the people who knew Lincoln best. As one of his former editors said, Pokorski was “dead on.” He got the story right – every single time. Because of this, the writer earned the respect of Lincoln scholars from near and far.

Pokorski wrote about the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for years as it was first a dream, then a slow moving project. I have no doubt he eagerly looked forward to the big day when it would open its doors.

Unfortunately, Doug Pokorski passed away in April 2004, less than a year before the museum opened. Others told the story he’d followed for so long.

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, I think Pokorski would have enjoyed it, too. I think he would have liked covering the visits of two living Presidents and the run for the presidency which started on the Old State Capitol steps.

I think he would have savored the interviews and written great stories. I think the scholars would have enjoyed talking to him, too. Any “source” loves it when the interviewer really knows the subject at hand.

Although the Lincoln spark in my life started a half-century ago or more and was nurtured by others along the way, Doug Pokorski gave me a chance to write about Lincoln, believed in me and nurtured me. I’ll be thinking of him as I pound his beat looking for a new story angle for my blog and, like him, I’ll continue to strive to get each story right.

I dedicate this, my last full column before I head to Springfield, to my fellow Lincoln buff, Doug.

To learn more
There is a very nice article about Doug in a University of Illinois at Springfield publication. It’s a pdf, so scroll to pages 16 and 17 to read about the life he lived and the legacy he left.

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