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La Salle County Courthouse unveils Abraham Lincoln portrait

La Salle County Courthouse receives portrait as a gift

Judges Robert Carter and Joseph Hettel unveil a portrait of Abraham Lincoln at the La Salle County courthouse on Monday. The portrait is being installed in county courthouses throughout Illinois in honor of the state's bicentennial.
Judges Robert Carter and Joseph Hettel unveil a portrait of Abraham Lincoln at the La Salle County courthouse on Monday. The portrait is being installed in county courthouses throughout Illinois in honor of the state's bicentennial.

The La Salle County Courthouse will display Abraham Lincoln looking his best.

The downtown Ottawa courthouse was gifted Monday a portrait of a clean-shaven Lincoln on canvas taken during his presidential campaign.

One month after Lincoln's nomination — which came May 3, 1860 — Alexander Hesler, a Chicago photographer, produced the iconic photo of a dapper, confident Lincoln taken in the old state capitol in Springfield. Thousands were printed as campaign material for buttons, posters and newspapers.

"This would be the first presidential campaign that used photographs," said Presiding Appellate Justice Robert Carter during Monday's ceremony.

Carter said the portrait is thought to be the finest pre-presidential image of Lincoln in existence.

"That looks better and expresses me better than any I've ever seen, and if it pleases the people, I'm satisfied," Lincoln had said in a quote recited by Carter on Monday.

Sponsored by the Illinois Judges Association, the Judges Foundation, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Bar Foundation and the Illinois State Historical Society, these portraits were financed and placed in most of the counties in the state as a celebration of the state's bicentennial.

A portrait was gifted to the Ottawa appellate courthouse in July.

Carter said the placement of Lincoln's image in a courtroom is fitting, because Lincoln practiced law in Illinois prior to becoming president.

He noted retired Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court John Dean Caton gave a eulogy to Lincoln in the Ottawa appellate courthouse, expressing how fair Lincoln was to his opponents. Carter noted that Lincoln heard 95 cases as a judge, because it was common at the time to appoint a judge if one wasn't available.

"He's been the example for lawyers in this state of an attorney we want in our courts," Carter said. "He's the kind of attorney judges expect in terms of honesty, integrity and regard for the rule of law."

The portrait will be put on display in Courtroom 300, which also happens to have a Lincoln profile taken by Hesler on the same day hanging up in the courtroom.

Making reference to that portrait, Judge Joseph Hettel shared a memory Monday of a medical malpractice case in which two doctors were being sued.

In the closing remarks, attorney Troy Lundquist spoke to the jury. Hettel said second guessing was a matter of discussion in the case.

Lundquist told the jury: "It is fair as it is right to judge a man by the knowledge in his own day. It is neither fair nor right to judge a man by the knowledge of a later day."

Hettel said Lundquist let jurors soak it in a little bit and he asked them if they knew who said it. Nobody responded. Lundquist then positioned himself perfectly in the courtroom so he could look over his right shoulder and see the photograph of Lincoln that hung in the courtroom.

Hettel said he understood the importance Lincoln brought recalling that moment.

Hettell also said it was fitting the Lincoln portrait was unveiled Monday, because it was the 155th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

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