Illinois Public Media News
Abraham Lincoln delivered his farewell address in Springfield 150 years ago as he was about to leave for Washington, D.C., and three months later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
To mark the anniversary of the start of the war, communities from all over the country simultaneously read the former president's farewell address on Friday in an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for simultaneous reading of a single document. The reigning world record was set in 2006 when more than 223,000 people read from "Charlotte's Web."
The Guinness Book of World Records requires the reading to last five minutes, so people had to recite the brief speech three times. Don Owen, the assistant superintendent for Urbana School District 116, was among the nearly 50 people who participated in the mass reading at the Urbana City Building. Owen, who showed up with his two children, said the speech revealed a lot about Lincoln's presidency.
"He knew that even before the Civil War started that he was going to be a president remembered for either saving or destroying the union," Owen said. "That kind of intelligence and forethought is amazing for any president."
Organizers say it will be several weeks before they know if they broke the record
Meanwhile, Urbana is looking forward to more Lincoln events. City planner Rebecca Bird said in the next couple of months, the city will release a podcast outlining sites with connections to Lincoln.
If you read the newspaper comics pages, you may have noticed the decline of the story strip. In January, "Brenda Starr, Reporter" disappeared from the comics pages, some 70 years after its creation by the late Dale Messick.
Its syndicator, Tribune Media Services, decided to end the strip, rather than replace Mary Schmich, the Chicago Tribune columnist who decided to leave "Brenda Starr" after writing it for 25 years (her collaborator for the past 15 years was artist June Brigman).
Schmich said she hopes Brenda Starr returns some day, but admits there is no future for the newspaper story strip as a format. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Schmich about Brenda Starr's unique position as a woman-produced comic strip about a woman reporter.
Archeophone Records will be part of the Grammy Awards for the 5th straight year.
'There Breathes a Hope', the newest release from the Champaign-based label that re-issues some of the earliest known recordings, includes 43 songs performed by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The recordings and the accompanying 100-page booklet tell the story of John Wesley Work II, who started taking the Fisk Jubilee Singers, from Nashville-based Fisk University, on the road in the late 1890's in an effort to preserve African-American spirituals and their place in history. The ensemble became the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet in the next century. The re-issue of these songs is nominated for Best Album Notes.
Author Doug Seroff wrote the notes. "I suppose what Work had to do was convince the student body that this music was genuine African-American folk music..," said Seroff. ".. and it had all the potential and all the inherit cultural value that people's music has." The CD also includes portions of a 1983 interview Seroff conducted with Rev. Jerome Wright, one of the last surviving members of the Fisk Jubliee Singers to have performed under John Work II.
Archeophone co-owners Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have one Grammy win - that was in 2007 - when another collection of black recordings - Lost Sounds, took the award for best historical album. Previous nominations include "Debate '08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph" and "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings From the 1890's." The 53rd annual Grammy Awards will be presented on February 13th.
The head of Champaign's 150th Anniversary Celebration said dozens of people of all ages have already sent in their writings on Champaign's past, present or future for the "Letters to the Future" project.
Project Manager LaEisha Meaderds said they are looking for letters to put in a time capsule, to be ready when the capsule is opened 50 years from now, in 2060.
"We've received several letters from just individuals throughout the community," Meaderds said. "We received a stack of letters from Next Generation School, from just a couple of weeks ago, from 7th and 8th graders. And their wit and their insight into what the future would hold are very interesting."
Meaderds said letter-writers should focus on one of three topics --- their personal family ties to Champaign, a description of life in Champaign today, or their hope or dream for Champaign's future.
Letters will be accepted until January 14th, 2011. One hundred and fifty of them will be chosen for display, and then included in the Anniversary time capsule. The capsule will be buried in March, when the year-long 150th Anniversary Celebration comes to a close.
The March wrap up to the Champaign Sesquicentennial will be more low-key than first envisioned. Meaderds said a budget crunch in city government and the generally weak economy mean the concluding celebrations will be smaller than first intended, and plans for installing a commemorative fountain in downtown Champaign have been put on hold.
But Meaderds said they have managed to adjust the 150th Anniversary Celebration to changing economic realities.
"Our planning started before the real downfall began," she explained. "And I think that we've been really, really smart to try and keep our costs as low as possible, and really just spend wisely --- but still at the same time, celebrate our city, celebrate our community and put on a good show."
The 150th Anniversary Celebration started last March with an exhibit on Champaign history, followed by a downtown music festival in July. Meaderds said a youth art competition is part of the Celebration's conclusion this coming March, in addition to the "Letters to the Future" project and the time capsule.
For more information on the Champaign 150th Anniversary Celebration, visit the project's website (www.champaign150.com) or call 217-403-8710.
Legislation Seeks to Extend Immigration Rights to Same-Sex Couples
The U.S. Senate is expected to consider ending the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gays from openly serving in the armed services. But there's another issue that many gay rights supporters are pushing. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on the political deadlock over legislation to extend immigration rights to same-sex binational couples.
The annual ceremony in Urbana recognizing the efforts of those who enlist in the U.S. armed forces was also a call to help local veterans in need.
About 40 people attended Veterans Day ceremonies at the Champaign County Courthouse Memorial on Thursday. Mark Friedman, the Superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Champaign County, spoke at the event.
Friedman's organization exists in about half of Illinois' counties. Groups like the VFW and American Legion has requested their county governments to form such a group, in which tax dollars help indigent veterans with areas like utility bills and assistance paying their rent or mortgage. Friedman said his organization has only been in the talking phase for the last 10 years, but its mission is starting to take shape.
"The VAC will be liasoning with groups like the (Champaign County) Regional Planning Commission for low-income energy assistance and programs like that," Friedman said. "We're basically going to be a clearinghouse to help route people who don't know where else to go. We're still looking at what we're going to describe as to what our complete mission is going to be."
Illinois' Military Assistance Act, passed in 1992, allows veterans organizations to form such groups. In other counties, the assistance groups also provide transportation for some veterans.
Meanwhile, veterans' groups say there is a new appreciation for what men and women in uniform do when serving in the armed services. Lieutenant Clifford White of Lincoln's Challenge Academy said only veterans know what it is like to stand guard all night while others sleep, and believes he is instilling those same values into the young cadets in Rantoul.
"It's not just a one-day event, it's an every day event," White said. "Our country is having turmoil everywhere, and they need to understand that if it wasn't for the men and women, both young and old, if it wasn't for that we wouldn't have the freedom to be able to do what we need to do and what we can do in our country."
White said since the Gulf War, Americans have learned to appreciate the role of the military.
(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)
Lots of baseball fans in and around Danville will spend part of their summer attending collegiate games, but the collegiate Danville Dans have only been around since 1989. Much of the early baseball history surrounding the city involves minor league baseball there, and the Three-I League...or Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa. The league lasted from 1901 to 1961.
Danville's involvement in the league actually predated Danville Stadium, going back to 1910, but John Dowling's first job as a batboy with the Danville Dodgers came as the park opened in 1946- at age 13. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talked with the retired educator to discuss his role with the team
A group fighting to preserve an Indiana museum dedicated to World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle says it sees the state's decision to open the site for a local festival as a step in the right direction.
The Ernie Pyle State Historic Site in the Vermillion County town of Dana will be open through Saturday as part of the Ernie Pyle Firemen's Festival.
The state closed the site in December and has sought to have it deeded or sold to community groups or local government.
The nonprofit Friends of Ernie Pyle hopes to vote on a plan to take over the site in September.
President Cynthia Myers says the group plans a national fundraiser to help pay operating costs.
The group also hopes to open the museum during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival in October.
The first black scholar admitted to the National Academy of Sciences is being remembered as a mathematician who had a unique way of getting to the heart of the problem.
David Blackwell died of natural causes July 8th at the age of 91. The Centralia native attended the University of Illinois at age 16, earning his doctorate in mathematics in 1941. Blackwell's time at the U of I was followed by an appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, alongside Albert Einstein, as well as time teaching at Howard University, and the University of California at Berkley, where he taught math for over 30 years. UCLA statistics professor Thomas Ferguson says he first met Blackwell as a student at Berkley in the early 50's. "He had this way of finding the right questions to ask that were the right problems to look at," said Ferguson. "Then he would go after those problems, and actually come out with something really interesting to say about them. In each of these areas that I'm thinking, he writes some sort of fundamental paper that everybody else jumps on, and then keeps going."
David Blackwell was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965. His career had its share of obstacles. In 1942, he was blocked from becoming an honorary Princeton faculty member because of his race. Blackwell's initial efforts to teach at U-C Berkeley were also blocked for the same reason. But he also wrote two books, published more than 80 papers and eventually held 12 honorary degrees from schools like Harvard and Yale.
Funeral services are tentatively set for July 31st.
The B-17 Bomber turns 75 this year. The fleet of planes covered the skies of Germany during World War II bombing raids, but today only a few remain. These flying bricks could sustain such significant battle damage that the aircraft lived up to its name, the Flying Fortress. To mark 75 years, the plane recently stopped at Willard Airport near Champaign. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers had a chance to take a ride in the Flying Fortress.
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