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August 5, 2002

Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Collection Donated to State

SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois First Lady Lura Lynn Ryan today announced that the Estate of the Honorable Abraham Lincoln Marovitz has donated an extensive collection of Abraham Lincoln-related items to the State of Illinois for inclusion in its Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Judge Marovitz’s collection includes 450 book and pamphlet titles and more than 100 prints and photographs, more than 30 busts, and numerous other pieces.

The collection contains a number of interesting rarities. Several early Illinois law books such as Sidney Breese’s 1831 Reports on Cases at the Common Law and In Chancery and the 1839 edition of Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois are found in the collection. Of special significance is Judge David Davis’ copy of the Laws of the State of Illinois Passed by the Tenth General Assembly. Davis was judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit where Abraham Lincoln practiced law from 1837 to 1861. Lincoln appointed Davis to the United States Supreme Court in 1862.

The collection also reflects the many friendships and themes that characterized the life of Abraham Lincoln Marovitz. In Robert W. Johannsen’s 1973 biography of Stephen A. Douglas, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley inscribed the following: “I thought you would enjoy the new biography of Stephen A. Douglas, the ‘Little Giant,’ who in my opinion is the outstanding Democratic leader in the history of Illinois.” Illinois authors such as Carl Sandburg, Lloyd Lewis, Benjamin Thomas, Paul M. Angle and Harry E. Pratt sent copies of their Lincoln studies to Judge Marovitz with inscriptions of gratitude.

Judge Marovitz owned every book written about Lincoln’s legal career, reflecting his keen interest in Abraham Lincoln’s legal practice and thinking. Anyone who visited Judge Marovitz’s chambers saw the vast array of framed prints and photographs of Abraham Lincoln. Bookends reproducing the Daniel Chester French seated Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial graced the Judge’s bookshelves. Assorted bust and bas-reliefs of the 16th President were scattered on shelves and desktops. Every significant scholarly biography is contained in the collection, along with the important studies of Lincoln’s Jewish friends and associates by Bertram Korn, Isaac Markens, and Emanuel Hertz.

The Marovitz materials will become part of the Illinois State Historical Library’s 46,000-item Henry Horner Lincoln Collection. Marovitz was a Trustee of the Illinois State Historical Library from 1961 to 1969. The Historical Library and its collections will become part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum now under construction in downtown Springfield. The Library portion of the two-building complex will open November 18, 2002, and the Museum portion is scheduled to open in mid 2004. The section of Marovitz books will be recognized by a special book plate acknowledging this generous gift.

Judge Marovitz’s parents, Rachel and Joseph Marovitz, were Lithuanian immigrants who entered the United States through Ellis Island. When Abraham was born on August 10, 1905, the family had relocated to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Rachel, recalling the impressive character of the 16th President recounted at a New York settlement house lecture, named her son after him. Judge Marovitz often remarked that his mother thought Lincoln was Jewish because John Wilkes Booth shot him in the temple. The family moved to Chicago’s Maxwell Street area when Abe was five.

Marovitz enrolled in Chicago-Kent College of Law at age 16 using money loaned to him by Alfred S. Austrian, the attorney for whom he worked at the law firm that is now known as Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Since he was only 19 years old when he graduated law school, Marovitz had to wait two years to take the bar exam, because state law prohibited anyone under 21 from becoming a lawyer. At age 22 Marovitz became the youngest person to work as a Cook County assistant state’s attorney. During this time, he met a young Richard J. Daley, a City Council clerk, and the two began a lifetime friendship.

Marovitz teamed up with his two brothers in private practice. He represented labor leaders and some of the most notorious gangsters of the day.

Marovitz was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1938, the first Jew to serve in that body. Remembering the prejudice he suffered as a youth, he helped introduce the first Fair Employment Act that barred discrimination based on race, religion or sex. His friendship with fellow State Senator Daley was strengthened during this time. Marovitz’s Senate service placed him in Springfield during the golden era of research and writing about Abraham Lincoln. Paul M. Angle, then director of the Illinois State Historical Library, stated on several occasions that the library’s best friends were Marovitz and Richard J. Daley. Marovitz left the Senate in 1943 to join the U.S. Marines and saw combat during the invasion of the Philippines; he was wounded but refused the Purple Heart, saying his injuries were far less serious than many soldiers who had lost limbs.

Marovitz remained in the State Senate until 1950, when he became a judge in the Cook County Superior Court. He was sworn in by the new county clerk, Richard J. Daley. He served from 1958 – 1959 as chief justice of the Cook County Criminal Court. In 1963 President John F. Kennedy named him a federal judge in the Northern Illinois District, a position he held for several decades. He earned a reputation as a fair and impartial judge.

Marovitz had many famous and influential friends besides Mayors Richard J. and Richard M. Daley, including Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, legendary fan dancer Sally Rand, and comedian Joe E. Lewis. The City of Chicago held an honorary street naming ceremony in his honor, and a forest in Israel with 200,000 trees bears his name.

Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz died March 17, 2001. He was 95 years old.


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