By Courtney Westlake
In memory of the late Professor Phillip Shaw Paludan, a highly respected Abraham Lincoln scholar, hundreds of people took part in the Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series on Thursday evening, October 4, which contained laughter, moments of respect and the sharing of knowledge and memories.
The Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series was started by Paludan, Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at UIS, who had served as host of the series and who passed away on August 1. Paludan's wife and two daughters were present on Thursday in his honor.
"In the all too short period, six years, that Professor Phil Paludan was (here at UIS), he immeasurably enriched our lives and stimulated our minds," said Cullom Davis, UIS professor emeritus of history, during a tribute and dedication to Paludan. "This is an evening of poignant memories, interesting coincidences and notable milestones. Aptly named the Lincoln Legacy Series, it also stands conspicuously as the Paludan Legacy."
The annual Lincoln Legacy Lecture Series brings nationally renowned scholars to Springfield to present lectures on public policy issues that are of contemporary interest and that also engaged Abraham Lincoln and the citizens of his era, said Barbara Ferrara, director of the UIS Center for State Policy and Leadership, which co-sponsors the program.
Thursday's focus was on "Lincoln and the Law." Featured speakers included Dr. Mark E. Steiner, who spoke about "'The Sober Judgement of Courts': Lincoln, Lawyers, and the Rule of Law," and Dr. Brian R. Dirck, who discussed "Abraham Lincoln: The Lawyer in the White House." Davis served as the moderator for the event.
Steiner and Dirck, both published authors with books on the topic of Lincoln and the law, said they believe that Lincoln's law practice is a very relevant issue in today's society, especially in Illinois.
"I think you have to remember that he spent a significant portion of his life as a lawyer," Dirck said. "In fact, I think he's the most experienced trial attorney we've ever put in the White House. He practiced law for 25 years, litigated several thousand cases, and it had to have a tremendous influence on the way he approached leadership issues and what he did during the Civil War."
The Lincoln Legacy Series is held each year in the Brookens Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The two speakers said they were thrilled to be invited to UIS for the event.
"I was honored to be asked; I was asked last spring by Professor Paludan, and it meant a lot professionally to be asked by him," Steiner said. "Through my discussion, I hope to be able to bring out the variety and depth of Professor Paludan's scholarship."