Honest Abe's Centre Connection
RELEASED: Feb. 16, 2006
DANVILLE, KYHe'll be 200 years old in a couple of years, but Abraham Lincoln has never been a hotter commodity.
There's a new documentary on his life currently airing on The History Channel; a Steven Spielberg film in the work (with Liam Neeson already cast as Abe); and Team of Rivals, the Lincoln biography by Pulitzer Prize-winner Doris Kearns Goodwin riding the bestseller lists. With the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth approaching in 2009, the 16th president remains an A-list celebrity.
But long before he became known (for this news cycle at least) as Abe the Babe, and even before he became known to his contemporaries as Honest Abe, the man on the $5 bill had a powerful connection to Centre College.
Lincoln, who was president from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, was indeed born in a log cabin—in Hodgenville, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809. He guided the country through one of its greatest crises—the Civil War—and went on to become perhaps our most cherished president. But if not for a Centre College graduate, it’s hard to say if President's Day, Feb. 12, would have as much meaning to Americans—or if America itself would be the same country it is today.
In 1832 Lincoln was far from looking as if he were on his way to becoming an American legend. He was a 23-year-old with no great ambition who planned to become a blacksmith. But John Todd Stuart (Centre College class of 1826) urged him to study for the bar. When Lincoln protested that he had nothing to study, Stuart loaned his good friend Lincoln a set of books, according to an autobiographical sketch Lincoln wrote 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. 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.Stuart and Lincoln 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.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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