February 09, 2009
Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson, co-directors of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, whose research and writings have revolutionized the field of Lincoln history, have been awarded The Order of Lincoln, the highest honor conferred by the State of Illinois.
The award was presented Saturday, February 7 by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois, in a special ceremony at the Old State Capitol in Springfield. Award recipients were 30 leading authors, artists, historians and scholars from around the world. A news release from the Lincoln Academy said the recipients were honored "for the lasting and significant ways they have preserved the memory of Abraham Lincoln and have contributed to Lincoln's defining influence on the American spirit."
The award presenters were John B. Simon, chancellor of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois; and Carolyn Brown Hodge, director of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, who represented Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Also in attendance was Knox College President Roger Taylor, an academic trustee of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois.
In the past decade, Davis and Wilson have written and co-edited a series of books that, in the words of one reviewer, "have contributed significantly to the rise in quantity and quality of Lincoln scholarship."
Most recently, their book "Herndon's Informants" was praised by the Washington Post as "the most valuable source of information on Lincoln." Writing in the February 8 edition of Washington Post Book World, reviewer Fred Kaplan singled out "Herndon's Informants," co-edited by Davis and Wilson, as "the most valuable source of information on Lincoln... a painstaking compilation of the work of William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, who spent 25 years after the president's death interviewing and corresponding with people who had known Lincoln."
Kaplan also singled out "Honor's Voice," Wilson's book about Lincoln, as "my favorite and most revelatory Lincoln book of recent decades." A journalist and author of "Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer," Kaplan praised "Honor's Voice" as "a gem: sensible, economical, solidly based on the evidence, the best account of Lincoln's life up to the end of 1842."
Other books by Davis and Wilson include the first-ever critical edition of the texts of the Lincoln Douglas Debates, and a new edition of William Herndon's biography of Lincoln.
Davis is the Szold Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History. Wilson is the George Appleton Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor of English. Both are longtime members of the Knox faculty, who retired from full-time teaching in the 1990s.Photo: John B. Simon, chancellor of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois; Order of Lincoln recipients Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College; Carolyn Brown Hodge, director of the Governor's Rural Affairs Council, representing Governor Pat Quinn.