Yesterday afternoon at 4:30pm, Judge Larry Dunn acted as Master of Ceremonies for the unveiling of a portrait of our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln.
The portrait is a noteworthy rendering of Abraham Lincoln for several reasons. Most notably, the portrait was taken by Alexander Hesler, the preeminent photographer of the era. Mr. Hesler’s portrait of Lincoln, one of three taken on June 3rd, 1860, is widely acknowledged as the best likeness of Lincoln to be observed.
William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner prior to becoming president, had this to say about the portrait, “Tthere is a peculiar curve of the lower lip, the lone mole on the right cheek, and a pose of the head so essentially Lincolnian; no other artist has ever caught it.”
Additionally, the portrait of Lincoln was taken before he became president in 1861. The sitting took place to acknowledge Lincoln’s run for the presidency.
Judge Dunn began by thanking those that came to the event. He gave special mention to a Madison county lawyer, Mr. Bill Walker, who in addition to being an attorney, is also an avid collector of American historical artifacts. Mr. Walker brought twelve different framed pieces of history with him.
His private collection holds artifacts dating to back Jamestown in the 1600’s, which marks the very beginnings of our country. The collection holds over four thousand documents and artifacts detailing the history of this great nation.
Among the twelve large framed documents he brought with him and on display on a large table in the courtroom, was a small woven square of the actual American flag that was draped across the body of Lincoln during his removal from Ford Theater, where he was assassinated, to a building across the street where his remains were tended by a physician.
Another noteworthy artifact was a small lock of Lincoln’s hair, which was removed by the coroner on the night of or morning after he was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth.
Judge Dunn then took a moment to introduce Judge David Overstreet. Judge Overstreet is the appellate judge for the fifth circuit court of the State of Illinois. He was with us in Richland county as an Officer of the Illinois Judge Association.
Judge Overstreet shared a few words with the gathering after being introduced. He said, “...this is the 22nd ceremony like this I’ve done, but I have to say, this would be the first time we’ve done this dedication ceremony in the court room itself.’
Judge Dunn then introduced a well known member of Richland County, Judge Kimbara (Kim) Harrell. She took a brief moment to thank everyone that showed up for the unveiling.
The permanent installation, mounted on the north facing wall to the right of Judge Dunn’s bench, was made possible by donations from the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and
their respective foundations.
The Illinois State Historical Society owns the glass-plate positives of Hesler’s portrait. They are  leading a statewide campaign to place a framed copy in each of the 102 counties of Illinois. Our copy is a high quality rendering of those glass-plate originals and measures 30” X 40”.
Judge Dunn concluded the event by again thanking the attendees, primarily local attorneys and some  of the courthouse staff. He noted it is a pleasure to celebrate both Lincoln the lawyer and Lincoln the American leader.
While a courtroom is admittedly not a place most people strive to visit, in this case a trip up to the third floor of Richland County’s courthouse is well worth the time. When considering all that Lincoln gave up for the American idealistic cornerstone’s of freedom and justice, paying homage to his portrait is the least we can do in return.