Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jacksonville 2009 continued

We have some unfinished business here. I told you earlier of my first day or so of the 29th Annual Illinois History Symposium at Jacksonville (Ill.), which was held March 26-28, 2009.

An aside from one of my farmer friends: When I told him I'd been to a symposium, he wrote back to ask, "What do you do at a symposium, anyway? I killed a couple posiums once..." I choose friends who make me laugh - and they always come through.

My reply to him was, "No critters killed - possums or otherwise! ;-)"

Lunch with friends and "Strange-rs"
Another of my newer Lincoln buff friends - one who is an old and valued friend to many Lincoln scholars - Michael Burlingame, was the luncheon speaker on Friday, March 27.

I had the pleasure at that luncheon to have among my tablemates another of my newer Lincoln buff friends, Martha Vertreace-Doody, about whom you'll hear more later, and two of my old Galesburg "friends," Dr. Owen Muelder, and his wife, Laurie.

I had an interesting visit with the Muelders about the rich history of Galesburg, Muelder's encounters as a child with Carl Sandburg and others on the occasion of the Oct. 7, 1958 centennial of the Galesburg Lincoln-Douglas debate, the hope we have for a resurrected Galesburg and the nine-way race for mayor there.

Owen Muelder, of the Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Galesburg's Knox College, was to be presenting at one of the afternoon sessions. Laurie was a long-time teacher in Galesburg's District 205, and though both of us were struggling to remember for sure at the luncheon, I learned later she did have at least one of my daughters in her class at Churchill Junior High School.

Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Muelder's session, as I'd already planned to hear Vertreace-Moody and my friend, Dan Guillory, read in a poetry session at the same time. I'm optimistic, though, that our paths will cross again and I'll get to hear Muelder in a future event.

Congratulations on a well-deserved award
So back to Burlingame, friend and Strange-r. One of the most exciting things about the luncheon was learning that Burlingame was the recipient of the Russell P. Strange Book Award - the third annual, if I'm not mistaken.

According to the release for the 2007 award, the first annual, it's named for Colonel Russell P. Strange, a former vice president of the Society and a lifelong student of history. Col. Strange had an illustrious career as head of the University of Illinois's Air Force ROTC unit and chair of Eastern Illinois University's political science department, his position at the time of his death in 1966.

The award was established by Priscilla J. Matthews, daughter of Colonel Strange. At the time of the 2007 award, Matthews was a Senior Cataloging Librarian at Milner Library and a member of the library faculty at Illinois State University. As far as I can tell, it appears she probably still is.

Burlingame's talk was, as always, entertaining, engaging and humorous - and, even though I heard Burlingame present similar speeches twice on Lincoln's birthday, it never gets old listening to him.

In fact, I was so engaged and so excited about his talk that I had an absent-minded moment once it was over. In my rush to have him sign my copy of his two-volume, 2000-page book, Abaham Lincoln: A Life, I left my camera on the luncheon table. Fortunately, an honest student-worker or catering staff member found it and turned it in to the Illinois Historical Society staff, and Mary Lou Johnsrud, symposium coordinator extraordinaire, kept it safe until I realized it was missing and was able to retrieve it.

He ain't heavy
I'm not surprised I left my camera behind. My backpack, you see, was so full I could barely zip it, primarily due to the magisterial nature of the Burlingame book. It's been a few years since I've carried such a bulging book bag across campus. As I walked to my morning event, stepping back in time and memory to the years of 1970-72, when I traipsed the campus of nearby Quincy College, now Quincy University, I was also reminded of the 1969 song lyrics, "He ain't heavy. He's my brother," and the much earlier Boy's Town theme along the same lines.

All I could think was, "I'll make it across campus with these books. There's no place else I'd rather be right now than with my Lincoln buff brothers and sisters. I can carry Burlingame around. He's not heavy. He's my Lincoln brother."

I got to visit with Burlingame. I got his autograph, and I'm looking forward to the next time we meet on the Lincoln circuit. If my little birdies are correct, I may have that chance later this year in Bloomington. I hope so. I'd love to have my novice Lincoln buff friends and coworkers get to meet and hear him.

But, wait ... there's more
Come back to my blog again soon. I've still got lots to share about the rest of the symposium and other happenings in the Lincoln world.

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