This week in Illinois history: March 5-11
March 5, 1980 - Alton. Congress hears anti-Equal Rights Amendment testimony from former Alton activist Phyllis Schlafly. CNBC.com reports that Schlafly had barnstormed across the United States to dissuade voters and lawmakers against passing the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The U.S. Senate had approved the bill in 1972, and lack of support left it languishing for the next decade, according to History.com. Along the way, she drew the ire of detractors such as feminist Betty Friedan and the delight of social conservatives like Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. CNBC quotes author Donald T. Critchlow as crediting Schlafly with helping President Ronald Reagan get elected in 1980.
March 6, 1848 - Springfield. Illinois ratifies its second constitution. According to the educational website HistoryKat.com, by 1842 Illinois had “outgrown” its first constitution, prompting an attempted do-over that year. Once that failed attempt was out of the way, voters quickly agreed with politicians in 1846 to undertake the move, and after a three-month convention, a newly drafted document found its way in front of voters, a garnering the approval of a “large majority” of the electorate.
March 7, 1833 - New Salem. Future President Abraham Lincoln becomes New Salem’s new postmaster. Before he became a lawyer and later, commander in chief, Lincoln completed a three-year term as New Salem’s postmaster, overseeing weekly mail deliveries for his $55.70 annual pay, according to USPS.com.
March 8, 1892 - Bloomington. Birthdate of Pulitzer Prize-winner Edgar A. Mowrer. Although Mowrer and his brother, Paul Scott, both became award-winning journalists, it was Mowrer who carved his place in history as foreign correspondent for the Chicago Daily News and later its editor. This beat allowed him to document the dangerous rise of Adolph Hitler, an assignment that won him the 1933 Pulitzer Prize.
March 9, 1832 - New Salem. Future President Abraham Lincoln lays the groundwork for his first campaign in local politics. March 1832 was busy for the future president, as then-store clerk Lincoln released his campaign statement with a “well-thought-out” platform that addressed river reforms and other pressing local issues, says HouseDivided.com. After an eighth-place finish, the president-to-be set his sights on lower-hanging fruit and became New Salem’s postmaster.
March 9, 2011 - Springfield. Illinois takes death penalty off the table for criminal cases. Two governors effectively eliminated capital punishment in Illinois. First, Gov. George Ryan halted it beginning in 2000, and his successor, Gov. Pat Quinn, made the ban permanent in 2011. Driving the outrage about the penalty were more than a dozen death-row convictions later found to be false thanks to media investigations.
March 10, 1959 - Chicago. White Sox sold to majority owner Bill Veeck. Cutting his teeth on the sports reporting of his father, Bill Veek Sr. -- who later helmed the Chicago Cubs -- the younger Veeck worked his way up from groundskeeper for the Cubs to co-owner of the Triple-A Milwaukee Brewers, reports BaseballHall.org. After a leg injury sidelined him in World War II, Veeck owned various teams, including the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and the White Sox. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
March 11, 1949 - Cook County. CBS’s Wallace weds actress Buff Cobb. When reporter Mike Wallace, famous two decades later as a “60 Minutes” host, married Buff Cobb, the pair parlayed their marriage and their earlier stint on the radio to host a pioneering TV talk show, according to The New York Times. They split in 1957, the Times says, but not before their early ‘50s talk foray was lauded by a Times critic as a “lesson in how television can be eminently educational.”
March 11, 1868 - Springfield. New statehouse building breaks ground. Once a potential burial site for President Abraham Lincoln, the Mather Block site was deemed suitable for a new statehouse, partly because it was the city’s highest point. It was only due to the preference of wife Mary Todd Lincoln that the president was laid to rest in Oak Ridge Cemetery, freeing the location for the future Capitol.