Centre/Lincoln connections are coming
RELEASED: July 17, 2008
Already the nation is becoming caught up in "all things Lincoln," and Centre is like the rest of the nation—except more so! The College has a formative tie to Lincoln that no other American educational institution can claim: a Centre alum, John Todd Stuart, Class of 1826, set Lincoln on the road to extraordinary success—both as an attorney and as a politician. If not for Stuart, it can be plausibly argued, "Lincoln might never have become Lincoln."
The story in a nutshell (taken from a sketch written by Lincoln himself): At age 23, the future president, who had by then tried his hand in a number of professions with little success, was seriously considering a career as a blacksmith. When he confided this to his friend Stuart (who he had gotten to know when they served together in the Black Hawk War), the Centre graduate and attorney advised Lincoln to study for the bar instead. When Lincoln protested that he had nothing to study, Stuart loaned him his law books, which Lincoln took home and, in his own words, "went at it in good earnest."
Lincoln passed the bar, become Stuart's law partner, as well as his political protégé, and the rest, as they say, is history. Though they differed on political issues from time to time, the two men remained friends, and Stuart was a frequent guest in the Lincoln White House.
After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, Stuart chaired the National Lincoln Monument Association, which raised funds and constructed the memorial to the fallen president in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd (Stuart's first cousin), are buried in a vault beneath the floor in the center of the memorial.
This is the most famous Centre/Lincoln connection, but by no means the only one. For example, in the presidential election of 1864 in which Lincoln won his second term, his closest competitor was John C. Breckinridge, Centre Class of 1838. And Joseph Holt, Centre Class of 1824 (ca.), was lead attorney for the prosecution at the trial of the Lincoln assassination conspirators.
Beyond this, a number of Centre alumni served under Commander-in-Chief Lincoln as high-ranking Union officers, Centre presidents took active roles in the abolition debate, Old Centre was used as a hospital by both Confederate and Union troops after the Battle of Perryville, and—who knows what other Centre-Lincoln connections are out there?
That was exactly the question that occurred to the Centre Communications Office several months ago. And via e-mail and the alumni magazine, staff asked members of the Centre family to send in their Lincoln (and Stuart) connections.
They responded with a fascinating array of material, from blood relatives to a great grandmother who met Lincoln to a great great great uncle who was in a room in the hotel across from the Ford Theatre when the wounded president died.
Readers should come back to the homepage next Thursday for the first of a series of articles on Centre/Lincoln connections. The ties between Kentucky's leading educational institution and the Commonwealth's most famous native son are surprising, fascinating, and educational in the truest senses of the word.
This project is one of a number of Year-of-Lincoln activities at the College leading up to the 200th birthday of the individual many believe to be the nation's greatest president.
NOTE: For Centre alumni and other members of the Centre family, there's still time to contribute to the ever-growing collection of Centre/Lincoln lore. Those who have a connection (historical, personal, humorous or even frivolous – after all, this is a once-in-200-years opportunity) should email Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org right away.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. 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/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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