Friday, March 14, 2014

Governor Altgeld Heads West -- March 14, 1902

John Altgeld Statue, Diversey Parkway between Sheridan and the Inner Driver (JWB, 2010)
“Great as well as trivial causes have had their martyrs.  What we need in this hour of national confusion is the memory of a man who never allowed himself to see the little things in life, but turned his attention at all times to the greater things.  As time recedes the world will finally agree that our friend saw life as we see it, in its greater and grander form.”

So spoke Jane Addams at the funeral of former Governor John P. Altgeld at private services held at his residence, 3225 Malden Avenue, on this day in 1902.  The body of the governor would lie in state at the main library building at Randolph and State on March 15 and would then be carried to its final resting place in Graceland Cemetery.

In the coverage of the services The Tribune reported that Clarence Darrow spoke “with an emotion that threatened to overcome him at times,” referring to his dead friend “as a soldier in the everlasting struggle of the human race for liberty and justice on the earth.”

“Today we pay our last sad homage to the most devoted lover, the most abject slave, the fondest, wildest dreamiest victim that ever gave his life to liberty’s immortal cause,” said Mr. Darrow.  “No purer patriot ever lived than the friend we lay at rest today.  His patriotism was not paraded in the public marts, nor bartered in the stall for gold; his patriotism was of that ideal mold that places the love of man above the love of self.”

The tragic story of the governor’s end is well known.  A memorial to him can be found at most college campuses in the state.  Each time I leave my front door I look across Diversey Parkway and think about the courage of a small man who somehow found the wherewithal to do the right thing, resisting the money of the big shots as he stood up for the little guys who had little or no voice in the system.  There’s a bigger picture of his last days here.

Tonight, though, this state might do well to remember a man who kept the solemn promise that a politician makes to the electorate . . . and in a real way gave his life in an effort to remain loyal to those ideals.

"The love of man above the love of self . . .'  (JWB, 2010)

No comments: