Illinois Pioneers

Former Champaign Mayor Dannel McCollum

7:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 26, on WILL-TV
Dannel McCollum

Dannel McCollum

The former Champaign mayor talks about how his family’s involvement in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case affected him as a child, reflects on his years teaching school, and relates behind-the-scenes stories about the city’s Boneyard Creek and Virginia Theatre projects.

McCollum tells former WILL general manager Mark Leonard that his mother didn't realize how difficult her fight against religion in her son Jim's Champaign school would be. "When she got out in the middle of a raging stream, a lot of people would have turned back," he said. "Every once in a while, history messes with the wrong person."

His family's battle did have an impact on his childhood, he said. "It made going to school a lot less fun than it should have been." But, he said, "It's character-building if you survive it." The experience encouraged him to be skeptical about public affairs. "Maybe that’s what’s made me something of an activist," he said.

Watch the full episode: