This week in Illinois history: March 26-April 1
March 26, 1943 - Geneva. Birthdate of journalist Bob Woodward. Though he would go on to scale such heights as helping investigate Republican President Richard Nixon, Woodward dabbled in politics himself, early on, according to the Illinois Review. It was a high school campaign for student council president, though classmate Craig Simpson told a biographer that Woodward's personality was similar to Nixon's.
March 27, 1914 - Joliet. Date of first rehearsal of Joliet Township High’s band. The school website boasts that its band program was known a decade after its formation “as the best in the nation.” It had three consecutive state championship wins (1924-26) and three national title wins (1926-28).
March 28, 1990 - Illinois. Olympian Jesse Owens receives Medal of Honor. Owens, who was black, took home four medals during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin soon before the start of World War II, reports The Moulton Advertiser. His gold medals at the Games challenged perceptions about race, reason enough to earn him the Medal of Honor.
March 28, 1864 - Charleston. Residents clash over the Civil War. The Coles County Courthouse was the site of a gun battle between the Union and Confederate backers that wounded 12 people and claimed nine lives, the Journal-Gazette reports. The battle was over mixed support of the war and likely alcohol, according to historical accounts.
March 30, 1981 - Centralia. Reagan White House official James Brady shot during assassination attempt. Brady’s brush with death left him with disabling injuries, UPI reports, but all was not in vain. A decade later, his tragedy was the impetus behind the eponymous Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which required federal background checks on gun buyers and a five-day waiting period.
March 31, 1908 - Beardstown. Birthdate of xylophonist Red Norvo. As a solo artist and session man, Norvo hammered out his legacy on an instrument that before him was regarded as little more than carnival accompaniment. After winning a battle against the bottle, the Independent reports that he became a tireless innovator, prompting one bandmate to say, “With Red, it’s always the future department.”
April 1, 1818 - Illinois. State appoints census takers. For the first time in eight years, Illinois counted its census between April 1 and June 1 with the help of commissioners, or what we today would call census-takers. The motive was statehood, reports HistoryKat.com. By Dec. 3, all conditions had been met and Illinois became a state.