|Centre graduate played formative role in life of Lincoln
Friend of future president helped lead him to law career
RELEASED: Feb. 5, 2004
DANVILLE, KYOn Feb. 12 the United States will recognize the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, one of its greatest presidents.
The 16th president of the United States (serving 1861-65) and a Kentucky native, Lincoln was born in a log cabin in Hodgenville, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809. He helped guide the country through one of its greatest crisesthe Civil War.
But if not for a Centre College graduate, it's hard to say if Feb. 12 would have as much meaning to Americans, and if America itself would be the same country it is today.
In 1832 Lincoln was far from looking as if he was on his way to becoming an American legend. He was a 23-year-old with plans to become a blacksmith. But John Todd Stuart (Centre Class of 1826) loaned his good friend Lincoln a set of books and urged him to study law, according to a biographical sketch Lincoln prepared in 1860.
With the encouragement from Stuart, Lincoln was admitted to the Bar in 1837, and Stuart became Lincoln's first law partner in Springfield, Ill. They remained partners for five years.
The Kentucky natives first met in 1832 when they fought in the same battalion during the Black Hawk War (Stuart as a major and Lincoln as a captain). After their military service, both ran for the Illinois General Assembly, although only Stuart won a seat in 1832. Two years later, Lincoln joined Stuart in the state legislature.
Lincoln married Stuart's cousin, Mary Todd of Lexington, Ky., in 1842.
Interestingly, Stuart and Lincoln disagreed on many issues of the day, but remained close friends until Lincoln's death in 1865. Stuart later headed the National Lincoln Monument Association, which built a monument to the fallen president in Springfield, Ill.
The law practice Stuart established in 1828 survived until 1928.
Stuart died in November of 1885.
Centre alumni include two U.S. vice presidents, a chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and a Supreme Court justice, and a number of U.S. senators, representatives, and state governors.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in 1903 said: "There's a little college down in Kentucky which in 60 years has graduated more men who have acquired prominence and fame than has Princeton in her 150 years."
And in 2000 Centre hosted the only vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joseph Lieberman.
For more about Centre's history, go to http://www.centre.edu/web/glance/historybrief.html.
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