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Noted Lincoln historian and collector Frank J. Williams currently serves as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. “The Debates: 150 Years Later” will be the topic of his address to the annual luncheon meeting of the Stephen A. D o u g l a s Association on Saturday, June 7. He will be looking back at those famous debates of 1858 between Senator Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, as they competed for the office of United States Senator from Illinois. Douglas, of course, subsequently won that election—but the debates introduced the nation to relative political newcomer Abraham Lincoln. (Though he had served one term in the United States House of Representatives as well as in the Illinois General Assembly, he was not well known nationally at that time. Justice Williams will analyze those debates, how they were judged at the time, and how public perceptions of them have held up over the years. The author or editor of over thirteen books, the judge has contributed chapters to several others, and has lectured on subjects relating to the Lincoln era all over the country. At the same time, he has amassed an unsurpassed private library and archive that ranks among the nations largest and finest Lincoln collections. In 2000, Chief Justice Williams was appointed to the United States Abraham Lincoln B i c e n t e n n i a l Commission, created by Congress to plan events to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 2009.
Since 1996, he has served as founding chairman of The Lincoln Forum, a national assembly of Lincoln and Civil War devotees. Previously, he served as president of The Abraham Lincoln Association for nine years and as president of The Lincoln Group of Boston for fourteen years. He serves as literary editor of the Lincoln Herald, where his “Lincolniana” column appears. Frank Williams is currently at work on an annotated bibliography of all Lincoln titles published since 1865. With Harold Holzer and Edna Greene Medford, he has written The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views, Social, Legal, and Pictorial, recently published by Louisiana State University Press,
On December 30, 2003, President Bush, through the Secretary of Defense, invited Chief Justice Williams to be a member of the Court of Military Commission Review for the tribunals to be held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with the rank of Major General.
Note: Judge Williams has agreed to allow The Stephen A. Douglas Association to publish his remarks as a monograph. Signed and numbered copies will be made available to members when it is ready.