Five Illinoisans who once dominated
the political landscape of the state and nation grace
the face of commemorative medallions available through
the Illinois treasurer's office.
The five-coin set features Abraham Lincoln and fellow
presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Ronald Reagan, along
with the late Gov. Adlai Stevenson and Harold
Washington, Chicago's first African-American mayor.
"This does advance the cause of Illinois history,"
Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka said. "These people have
resumes which are huge, and they do change the course,
literally, of world history."
The medallions come in gold, silver and brass
finishes, with prices ranging from $10 to $55 each.
Packaged sets also are available. Additional information
can be found at www.state.il.us/treas.
The state borrowed the medallion idea from Minnesota,
which issued coins in honor of its state park program
and to commemorate hosting the Super Bowl and NCAA men's
and women's basketball tournaments. Topinka said
Illinois decided to use the medallions to honor its
finest public figures.
Lincoln's enduring presidential leadership during the
Civil War made him an obvious choice.
Before becoming president, Grant served as a Union
general from Illinois, earning a decisive victory at the
Battle of Vicksburg.
Reagan, a native of the northwestern Illinois village
of Tampico, was president when the Cold War with the
former Soviet Union came to an end.
"We have three presidents from the state of Illinois
who are very well thought of and who really changed the
course of history," Topinka said.
Once a presidential hopeful, Stevenson also served as
both a delegate and an ambassador to the United Nations.
Washington served 11 years in the Illinois General
Assembly and three years in Congress before becoming
Chicago's first African-American mayor in 1983.
The late Richard J. Daley, Chicago's longest-serving
mayor and father of current Chicago Mayor Richard M.
Daley, was considered for a sixth medallion, but Topinka
said the Daley family was not interested.
Along with Washington and Stevenson, a Daley
medallion would have given the set three Democrats to go
along with the three Republicans.
The Illinois General Assembly approved the first five
coins in 2001 and would have to sign off on any new
Topinka said she would like to see other Illinoisans
honored, such as Nobel Prize-winning activist Jane
Addams, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and author Edgar
Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan.
Proceeds from sales of the coins will be used for
special causes. Topinka suggested using the revenue to
erect statues of Reagan and Grant on the Capitol lawn,
along with the possibility of building a Lincoln statue
at the Gettysburg battlefield in Pennsylvania.
Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman for the National Park
Service in the region that includes Gettysburg National
Military Park, said a moratorium prohibits new monuments
at the park.
A monument containing the words of Lincoln's famed
Gettysburg Address and a bust of the president stand in
Gettysburg National Cemetery, she said.
Pat Guinane can be reached at 782-6883 or firstname.lastname@example.org.