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Rodney O. Davis, Szold Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History, began teaching American history at Knox in 1963. He helped establish the American Studies program at Knox and for many years was its chairman. Professor Davis is a much-honored teacher, a specialist in 19th century American history, and a recognized authority on the history of Illinois. A prize-winning essayist, his scholarly publications include articles on Lincoln, early Illinois politics, and editions of Thomas Ford's A History of Illinois and Ward Hill Lamon's The Life of Abraham Lincoln.
Douglas L. Wilson, George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English, came to Knox in 1961. He specialized in American literature and was director of the library for many years. Before becoming involved in Lincoln research, he published several books and articles on Thomas Jefferson. One of these, "Thomas Jefferson and the Character Issue," was featured as the cover story in The Atlantic Monthly. Among Professor Wilson's Lincoln-related publications are three books: Lincoln Before Washington: New Perspectives on the Illinois Years, a collection of his Lincoln articles and essays; Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln, which was awarded the Lincoln Prize in 1999; and Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words.
As a team, professors Davis and Wilson founded the American Studies program and have taught jointly a series of inter-disciplinary courses that included Tocqueville's America, Frontier in American Culture, The Great River, and Jefferson and Lincoln. A joint research project that occupied them for nine years was published in 1998 as Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln, which was hailed in the New York Review of Books as "a monumental achievement of scholarship." In a collaborative project with the Library of Congress, they served as supervising editors for the transcription and annotation of the Abraham Lincoln Papers on the Library's website. In 2006, Davis and Wilson initiated the Knox College Lincoln Studies Center Publication Series with Herndon's Lincoln, a new edition of William H. Herndon's classic biography of his law partner authored jointly with Jesse W. Weik. That volume was followed in 2008 by The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The Lincoln Studies Center Edition, Davis and Wilson's entirely new treatment of the memorable confrontation between Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. Their current project is an edition of William H. Herndon's own writings about Abraham Lincoln, which will stand as a companion to Herndon's Informants as a source of information on the pre-presidential Lincoln. In 2009, in recognition of their scholarly work on Lincoln, Davis and Wilson were named laureates of the Order of Lincoln, the highest honor conferred by the state of Illinois.
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