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Lincoln reaches for Liberty

TAYLORVILLE - The pig's name is Liberty.

That symbolic moniker was probably the most serious thing about Saturday's dedication ceremony at the Christian County Courthouse for the new Abraham Lincoln-with-pig statue, which commemorates one of the lighter Lincoln legends.

"This statue is not only about Lincoln, but it's about us as well," said Decatur artist John McClarey, who created the bronze sculpture. "We all need to spread a little humor and goodwill to those we meet in life."

The piece shows a young Lincoln, coat slung over his left shoulder, reaching for Liberty, who is hovering around Lincoln's right foot.

The statue, named "The Last Stop," is based on a tale from Lincoln's early days as a lawyer, when he was a circuit rider on the 8th Judicial Circuit. During a stop in Taylorville, Lincoln asked a judge for a "writ of quietus" to silence noisy pigs under the building.

Liberty - so named by a second-grade class at North Elementary School - is clutching the "writ" in his mouth now. After the statue was unveiled Saturday, young visitors seemed indifferent about Lincoln's likeness but delighted in rubbing Liberty's snout.

Anita Grundy's students won the pig-naming contest sponsored by the Taylorville Women's Club. The class won $100 and a Lincoln lithograph.

The $250,000 statue was financed by Taylorville businessman Monte Siegrist.

The hour-long dedication attracted several hundred spectators, who crowded the courthouse lawn to hear speakers ranging from a Lincoln impersonator to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.

Durbin said his family has some roots in the Christian County area. While he's not sure they ever interacted with Lincoln, "it's quite possible we had something to do with those pigs."

"(Lincoln) not only showed a sense of humor," Durbin said about the legend. "He showed that while he took his job seriously, he didn't take himself seriously."

The statue doesn't show a smiling Lincoln - McClarey said Lincoln appears "amused" - but it is a rare depiction of Lincoln as something other than somber.

"It allows us to see the man Lincoln as just that - a man," said Kim Bauer, curator at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. "By placing him back among the people, it reminds us that anyone is able to achieve the American dream."

The statue is part of the statewide "Looking for Lincoln" program. Taylorville officials think the statue will draw sightseers to the small city.

"We fully expect the world to be coming to our doorstep very soon," said tourism director Carol Alexander.

Daniel Pike can be reached at 788-1532 or daniel.pike@sj-r.com.

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