Who was Senator Dirksen? What did he do?
These are some of the questions that students at Dirksen Primary School had asked about the man whose portrait is in their school.
Everett McKinley Dirksen was born without wealth to humble German immigrants in Pekin. He was an outstanding man and he had a remarkable career becoming one of the most powerful and influential men in our country. Historians recognize him as one of the best United States Senators our country has ever known.
But, books were not currently available at the appropriate reading level for the students to learn of the accomplishments of Senator Dirksen.
This was brought to the attention of Marge Sevier of The Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. After some initial discussion, a committee was created of Marge (chair), John Durdle, Mary Fouts, Dale O. Kuntz, and Carole Starrett to compile information from the Senator’s childhood and early beginnings in Pekin through his rise to prominence on the national scene in Washington, DC., and of the tributes honoring him for his many accomplishments in order to create an elementary school level book.
Many other folks helped out in the creation of the book including Carol Hiller, computer artistry; Nancy Heaton, education consultant; Linda Seth, principal, and Lea Ann Juska, teacher, at Dirksen Primary School; Dale O. Kuntz, illustrations; and Dr. Thomas Dirksen (nephew of Senator Dirksen), personal recollections of Dirksen family information. Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Center also contributed his expertise and support throughout the preparation of the book.
Through the many efforts of these volunteers, the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society was able to complete publication of a 100-page book about Senator Dirksen for primary and elementary grade levels entitled Everett McKinley Dirksen….a boy from Pekin. The book was written for students with a third through seventh-grade reading level. However, adults will also find the photos and stories of Senator Dirksen’s life interesting.
Copies of the books were presented at a program held Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at the Dirksen Primary School for the students. Committee members and special contributors were in attendance along with representatives of the sponsors of the book: Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Center, and representatives of the Commerce Bancshares Foundation, Marigold Festival Committee, the Tazewell County School Employees Credit Union, and the Tazewell County Farm Bureau. Mr. William Link, superintendent of Pekin District 108, was also in attendance.
The book is now available to the general public.