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In the intervening years, he had served as a representative in the Illinois legislature; registrar of the Federal Lands Office in Springfield, Illinois; Illinois secretary of state; justice of the Illinois Supreme Court; and congressman in the United States House of Representatives. He is probably best remembered for his debates with Abraham Lincoln during the campaign for the United States Senate  in the election of 1858, which he won.

Stephen Arnold Douglas was a resident of Chicago for the last fourteen years of is life. His tomb is an Illinois Historic Site. It is located in a beautiful little park at the eastern extremity of 35th Street in Chicago. Just east of and below the tomb are the Illinois Central tracks and Lake Michigan. It was in this area that Camp Douglas, the United States Army's recruiting camp and prison for captured Confederte soldiers was located.

Mayor Daley shared his admiration for Douglas with his friend, Ralph G. Newman, who at that time was president of the board of directors of the Chicago Public Library. It had become a custom of the two men to visit the tomb on the anniversaries of Douglas's birth on April 23 and his death on June 3.

The first luncheon meeting was held on April 23, 1975, and was hosted by Mayor Daley, with Ralph Newman serving as master of ceremonies. Those assembled heard an address by John Y. Simon, professor of history at Southern Illinois University. Dr. Simon opened his address with this observation: "At SIU, I teach a course on 'Illinois History, from Father Marquette to Mayor Daley.' Now, at last, I have met one of those men."

The first officers of the Association included Mayor Daley as chairman of the board, Ralph Newman as president, and Brooks Davis as treasurer. Among the other original board members were Lieutenant Governor Neil F. Hartigan, Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, and John R. Robling. The Association was founded for two reasons: to promote the legacy of Stephen A. Douglas and to call attention to his tomb, the Stephen A. Douglas State Historic Site.

Several previous ceremonies had honored the Little Giant in the 1960s and the early 1970s. The one hundredth anniversary of his death was honored with a ceremony at the Chicago Historical Society. It was sponsored by the CHS and the City of Chicago Civil War Centennial Commission, headed by Ralph Newman. Paul Angle, then director of the CHS, spoke on "Stephen Arnold Douglas: Chicagoan and Patriot." This was followed by a program at the Douglas Tomb. Participants included the mayor, the armed forces, and representatives of the governor and the president.

A similar event had been held at the tomb in 1963 to mark the 150th anniversary of Douglas's birth. Illinois Governor Otto Kerner spoke about the Senator's successes with internal improvements, the Illinois Central railroad, and educational projects. Children from the St. Joseph's Home for the Friendless wre among those attending. The home, located across the street from the tomb, was originally built during the Civil War as a soldiers' home.

Mayor Daley participated in another program at the tomb on April 23, 1973, to commemorate the 160th anniversary of Senator Douglas's birth. That was the year of the publication of the master work on the life of Stephen A. Douglas by Robert Johannsen, professor of history at the University of Illinois. Members of Mayor Daley's cabinet reported on various chapters of the book as part of a luncheon given by the mayor, to the concealed amusement of all. According to a newspaper, the guest of honor, Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somosa-a dictator-told those gathered at the LaSalle Hotel luncheon, "I congratulate Mayor Daley and all of you for making Chicago one of the great democratic cities in the world, a city that works."

Chicago Tribune interviews with Herman Williams, longtime custodian at the tomb, published in 1969, 1970, and 1971, told of his dedication to the maintenance of the tomb and beautification of the area surrounding it. Williams was the father of recent tomb custodian Patrick Williams, who inherited his father's gardening skills. A 1976 Chicago Sun-Times article praised Herman Williams's gardening talents at the only State Historic Site in Chicagoland.

Ralph Newman launched a recruiting drive that year, stating that the organization was open to women (as opposed to The Civil War Round Table of Chicago, which did not admit women as members until the next year), would consist of around 100 members, and the dues would be only $50 for a lifetime membership (a dollar figure that the Association's board would later lament!). He advised that ceremonies would be held that year on April 23, and that an exhibit would open at the Chicago Public Library that day-the 115th anniversary of the Senator's death.

Invitations for April ceremonies and a June program at the Douglas Tomb in 1977 show that Mayor Michael A. Bilandic had carried the torch forward for the late Richard J. Daley. Later that year, the Chicago City Council began considering Chicago Landmark status for the tomb.

This is Part One of a Two Part series that appeared in The Little Giant. The series was authored by Brooks Davis and Barbara Hughett. Click Here for Part Two.