Past Banquet Speakers

Purpose

The purpose of The Abraham Lincoln Association is to observe each anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, to preserve and make more accessible the landmarks associated with his life, and actively to encourage, promote, and aid the collection and dissemination of authentic information regarding all phases of his life and career.

History

The Abraham Lincoln Association was organized in 1908 as the Lincoln Centennial Association. It led the national celebration of Lincoln's one-hundredth birthday.  In 1925, under the leadership of Association President Logan Hay, Paul M. Angle became the Association's first executive secretary.  This appointment was the beginning of the Association's Golden years.  Paul Angle, Benjamin Thomas, Harry Pratt---names now revered by all Lincoln scholars--were remarkably productive in establishing the Association's distinguished programs of research and publication
More on the History of The Abraham Lincoln Association
Thomas F. Schwartz
Defining the Study of Lincoln: The Contributions of the Abraham Lincoln  Association.

The Abraham Lincoln Association continues to uphold its tradition in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, the only journal devoted exclusively to the rich history and complex legacies of Abraham Lincoln.  The Association also hosts an annual Symposium and Banquet through which scores of famous speakers and scholars have presented new and exciting work concerning our Sixteenth President.

Past Presidents of The Lincoln Centennial Association / Abraham Lincoln Association

J. Otis Humphrey 1908-1918

A distinguished jurist who served as a United States District Attorney and later as a judge on the federal bench, J. Otis Humphrey was the founding president of the Lincoln Centennial Association.   Humphrey was born near Jacksonville, Illinois in 1850, attending Shurtleff Collegebefore becoming a teacher.  He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1880.  He oversaw the operation of extensive farmlands and served on a number of local boards and civic organizations, including the planning of the Lincoln Centennial celebration.  The Lincoln Centennial Association began its planning efforts in 1908.  Judge Humphrey secured the attendance of Robert Todd Lincoln for the event although James Bryce, the British Ambassador to the United States, was the featured speaker for the February 12, 1909 event.  Humphrey’s friendship with U.S. Senator Shelby M. Cullom, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, provided a number of prominent European statesmen as speakers for the Association’s early banquets.

John W. Bunn 1918-1920

Judge Humphrey died in 1918 prompting the elevation of John W. Bunn from Vice-President of the Lincoln Centennial Association to the presidency.  At sixteen, John Bunn came toSpringfield to assist his brother, Jacob Bunn, in the family business, which consisted of a wholesale and retail grocery as well as a banking business.  Abraham Lincoln was the attorney for the Bunn family and also urged John to run for Springfield city treasurer in 1857.  President Lincoln appointed Bunn to the office of United States Pension Agent for Illinois in 1861.

Logan Hay 1920-1942

When John W. Bunn died in 1920, the Association elected Logan Hay.  Hay came from a long pedigree of Lincolnians: his grandfather was Stephen Trigg Logan, Abraham Lincoln’s second law partner; his father was Milton Hay, who studied law in the Lincoln-Herndon law firm; his cousin was John Hay, Lincoln’s personal secretary; and he was a partner in the firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens, successor to the firm of Stuart & Lincoln. It was under Hay’s leadership that the Association made its greatest strides.  Hay changed the name of the organization to the Abraham Lincoln Association, reflecting a new mission.  Realizing that much of the writing on Lincoln was dated and that it repeated stories and myths about the Sixteenth President, Hay hired Paul Angle as a research associate to begin a serious and scholarly examination of the record and present new findings at Association meetings and publications.  The painstaking care that attended all of the Association’s research and publications earned it widespread recognition and praise from leading academics and news organizations.

George W. Bunn, Jr.  1942-1962

George W. Bunn, Jr., “Gib” to his friends and family, was related to John W. Bunn.  George Bunn was a graduate of Princeton University, served in World War I, wrote stories as a reporter for theNew York Sun, and eventually became the president of the Springfield Marine Bank where Abraham Lincoln had held an account.  Because of the close connection of the Bunn family withLincoln, George Bunn was very committed to completing the major research project begun by Logan Hay: the publication of the eight volumes, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Bunn liquidated all the assets of the Association to accomplish the publication of all eight volumes. From 1953 to early 1962, the Association maintained its incorporation status but did not hold annual meetings, nor did it have the resources for a staff or publications.  When Governor Otto Kerner decided to restore the Old State Capitol, he asked Bunn to reactivate the Abraham Lincoln Association as a support organization in raising money for period furnishings for the structure.

Oliver J. Keller, Sr. 1962-1968

After the initial reactivation of the Abraham Lincoln Association, George Bunn turned the presidency over to Oliver J. Keller, Sr.  Owner of the radio station WTAX, Keller brought a new dimension to the Association activities by taping and broadcasting some of the more prominent banquet speakers such as Adlai Stevenson II.  Under Keller’s leadership, the Association raised nearly $300,000 to purchase period furnishings for the Old State Capitol.

Marshall S. Luthringer 1968-1971

Marshall S. Luthringer was born in Petersburg, Illinois and grew up in the shadow ofLincoln’s New Salem.  He became president of Central Illinois Power System in 1949 and upon his retirement in 1968 turned his attention to the presidency of the Abraham Lincoln Association.  Under his leadership, the Association celebrated the rededication of the Old State Capitol as aLincoln site and began exploring the restoration of the Lincoln Home area, which was still owned by the State of Illinois.  The transfer of the Lincoln Home to the National Park Service on August 18, 1971 led the Association to redirect its efforts.

Floyd S. Barringer 1971-1984

An accomplished author, preservationist, and pioneer in the field of neurosurgery, Dr. Floyd S. Barringer took over the presidency upon the death of Marshall S. Luthringer in 1971. Barringer was long active in the Sangamon County Historical Society and wrote several publications, including Historic Homes of Springfield (1966), A Walk Through Oak Ridge Cemetery (1967), and Tour of Historic Springfield (1971).  Barringer revived Association publications, printing the annual banquet addresses.  In 1979, The Papers of the Abraham Lincoln Association appeared, later expanded to the semi-annual The Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association (1989).

Harlington Wood, Jr.  1984-1986

The death of Harlington Wood, Jr. on December 29, 2008 ended the career of a distinguished jurist.  Judge Wood grew up in Petersburg, Illinois and followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the family legal practice.  His resemblance to the tall, lanky Abraham Lincoln led to his being cast as Lincoln in “Forever This Land” and other historic plays performed in Kelso Hollow Theatre at Lincoln’s New Salem State Park.  In 1973, Wood was assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department and helped end the standoff between members of the American Indian Movement and the federal government at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  Wood served as United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois; in the Justice Department during the Nixon administration; as judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; and finally as judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.  As president of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Wood championed the support of the Lincoln Legal Papers and established the Association’s own “Lincoln the Lawyer Award,” to highlight this important and unstudied aspect of Lincoln’s own life.  An accomplished photographer and writer, Wood’s color images of Lincoln sites and public sculpture graced the covers of the annual banquet program for many years and were individually initialed and numbered by him.  A delightful and engaging memoir of his life, An Unmarked Trail: The Odyssey of a Federal Judge (2008), was published months before his death.

Frank J. Williams 1986-1995

nk J. Williams began his life-long obsession with reading and collecting anything about the Sixteenth President.  He studied law and served in private practice before his appointment as Associate Justice of the Superior Court in Rhode Island from 1995 to 2001 and then his appointment as Chief Justice there from 2001 to 2008.  He served as president of the Lincoln Group of Boston.  In 1976, Williams was elected to the Abraham Lincoln Association’s board of directors. As president of the ALA, Williams expanded the journal from an annual to a semi-annual publication and contributed his annual “Lincolniana” column, a summary of Lincoln events and publications in that year.  He worked aggressively at raising funds for research and conferences that the Association sponsored.

G. Cullom Davis 1995-1996

Elected in 1995, G. Cullom Davis had been one of the founding faculty members in the History Department at Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield.  A descendant of Governor and U.S. Senator Shelby Cullom, Davis took over as Director of the Lincoln Legal Papers in 1988.  Davis had been on the board of directors of the Association since 1977, serving on committees that planned the annual symposium and publications.  During his two years as president, Davis oversaw an extensive and thoughtful review of the Association’s bylaws and organization, leading to the rewriting of bylaws, a reorganization of the committee structures, and an active recruitment of new board members.

Dan Bannister 1996-1998

Dan Bannister came to Springfield in the 1960s to take over as president of the Horace Mann Insurance Company.  Having been awarded an M.B.A. and a J.D., Bannister reflected the vision of a corporate executive while understanding the systematic process necessary to realize the vision.  He brought the same insight to his presidency of the Association.  Bannister created the framework for an annual budget to help guide the Association with long-term project expenses.  It was Bannister who led the Association into cyberspace with the digitization of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln and in establishing the Association website.  Bannister was also a steadfast supporter of the Lincoln Legal Papers, assisting the staff by writing abstracts of Lincoln’s Illinois Supreme Court cases.  His research efforts resulted in two books, Lincoln and the Common Law (1992) and Lincoln and the Illinois Supreme Court (1995).

Donald R. Tracy 1998-2002

Don Tracy served on the board of directors before being elected president of the Association in 1998.  A lawyer with the firm of Brown, Hay & Stephens, Tracy has long had an interest in the leadership of the Sixteenth President as well as Winston Churchill.  His efforts to promote outreach and membership resulted in the creation of the Association’s quarterly newsletterFor the People.  Tracy also brought to fruition many of the reforms and suggestions first raised by Davis and continued with Bannister, especially establishing an endowment fund to support the activities of the Association well into the 21st Century.

Robert S. Eckley 2002-2004

Robert S. Eckley recalled a family story in which his great-grandfather entertained Abraham Lincoln on his farm.  His interest increased with being appointed to the David Davis Mansion Foundation board.  Eckley holds an M.B.A. from The University of Minnesota and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.  His expertise led to a dual career in higher education and business serving as chief economist for Caterpillar for 14 years and President of Illinois Wesleyan University for 18 years.  He also taught courses in international business for three decades.  When he joined the Abraham Lincoln Association, Eckley was immediately appointed as chair of the Endowment Committee, and he remains active in building the endowment fund.

Roger D. Bridges 2004-2006

Roger D. Bridges received the Ph.D. in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and put his training to good use as the newly created Director of Research at the Illinois State Historical Library.  He became Director of the Library and briefly served as Director of the Lincoln Legal Papers before assuming the Executive Director position at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum.  Bridges helped revive the publications program of the Association and planned the annual symposium until 1986.  Bridges remained active on the Association’s board of directors throughout his tenure in Ohio.  Upon his retirement, Bridges returned to Illinois and assumed the presidency of the Association.  He actively promoted the symposia and publications.

Richard E. Hart 2006-2010

Richard E. Hart attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he received his B.A. and his J.D.  Since 1967, he has practiced law in Springfield, Illinois where he is a partner in the firm of Hart, Southworth & Witsman.  For decades, Hart has been a recognized leader in Springfield’s historic preservation movement.  His efforts to save the Elijah Iles House and restore it to serve as a museum for Springfield history is one of many achievements.  Hart has published several studies of Lincoln’s Springfield, including seminal research on the African-American residents of Springfield in the Lincoln era--Springfield's African Americans as a Part of the Lincoln Community and The Early African American Population of Springfield, Illinois (1818 1861). He is also the author of The Public Square (1823-1865), Springfield, Illinois’ Nineteenth Century Photographers, The Underground Railroad in Lincoln’s Springfield, and Greek Revival Architecture on the Prairie.  Hart suggested the format for the Looking for Lincoln in Springfield and shared his research for the project.  His leadership of Association’s 2008 centennial celebration resulted in memorable concerts of a new work, An American Dream.  Under Hart, an executive secretary has been hired to run the day-to-day needs of the Association, online payments for membership renewals and ticket purchases have been implemented, and the newsletter, the Journal cover and the Association’s website have been redesigned.   Hart also took the lead in creating the book,Lincoln in Illinois, that commemorates this bicentennial banquet.

Robert J. Lenz 2010 - 2014

Robert J. Lenz has been engaged in the general practice of law in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois since 1963.  He was educated at Freeport High School in Freeport, Illinois, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and the University of Illinois College of Law.  Lenz is a longtime amateur student of Abraham Lincoln and has made numerous appearances as a speaker on Abraham Lincoln.  He is currently the President of the Abraham Lincoln Association.
From 1975-1981, Lenz served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois and he was president of the State of Illinois Universities Civil Service System, Merit Board.  From 1971-1981 he was a member of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.
In addition to his interest in Lincoln, Lenz is a past president of the McLean County Bar Association and the David Davis Mansion Foundation.  He has been a delegate to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Conference in Istanbul, Turkey; a founding board member of the Adlai Stevenson Lectures; and an attendee at the 1971 YMCA International Committee World Meeting in Kampala, Uganda.  Lenz lives on a small farm near the Mackinaw River on the border of Woodford and McLean Counties

Robert A. Stuart, Jr. 2014-2016

 Bob is a partner in Brown Hay & Stephens which was founded by his great-great grandfather John Todd Stuart in 1828, the oldest law firm in the state of Illinois. He has served as president of the Sangamon County Historical Society and a member of advisory panel for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln.

He is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and of the American Bar Foundation as well as advisor to Leading Lawyers Network. He has chaired the ISBA Estate Planning Section Council and the Sangamon Valley Estate Planning Council. In Springfield, he has chaired the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way Campaign and the United Way Foundation. He is President Elect of the National Recreation Foundation. For service in masonry, he has been awarded the 33rd degree.  The Illinois Association of Park Districts presented him its lifetime appreciation award.

Bob has been Rotary club president, district governor and one of 17 directors on the international board of Rotary International. He chaired RI’s constitution and bylaws  and operations review committees, raised funds for Rotary’s 7 global Peace Centers. He has immunized children in Rotary’s campaign to eradicate polio, opened water wells, delivered wheelchairs, dedicated new schools following the Tsunami, worked with clubs along the Gulf Coast in post Katrina relief efforts and is currently working with Haiti Earthquake Relief Donor Advised Fund. The Rotary Foundation has given him its Citation for Meritorious Service and Distinguished Service Award.

Bob has served as President of the Abraham Lincoln Council BSA and a Trustee of its endowment.    He is currently Regional Chair for the National Eagle Scout Association and a member of the national committee. He has been awarded the Distinguished Eagle, the Silver Beaver and the Silver Antelope   Bob has served as trustee and elder in his church.

Kathryn M. Harris  2016- present

 Kathryn M. Harris is the first woman and the first African American to serve as the President of the Abraham Lincoln Association since its inception in 1909.  Harris retired in 2015 as the Library Services Director/Director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, formerly the IL State Historical Library after more than 25 years of service.  She has served on the Board of the IL Library Association and the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI); in addition she is a Past President of the Sangamon County Historical Society and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the IL State Historical Society.   She has been recognized by the Springfield Rotary Club and is a Paul Harris Fellow; she was honored as a Woman of Influence by the Springfield Business Journal and recognized by the Society of Public Administrators.  Harris presents one woman shows of four historic 19th century African American Women to school children, civic, church and social groups, but her favorite character is Harriet Tubman




                       

 

                       

 
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