CHICAGO, Ill. – As a lawyer traveling Illinois’ Eighth Judicial Circuit, Abraham Lincoln made two simultaneous journeys. He gained respect as a skilled attorney and mesmerizing speaker, but he also built a political base and refined his views on the important issues of the day, many of which he would face in the White House.
His experiences from 1837 to 1860 on muddy roads, in homes of friends and in courtrooms on the circuit guided him when he became president. Lincoln: Prelude to the Presidency, produced by WILL-TV public television in Champaign, Ill., tells the story of the cases he tried and people he met during this critical period of his life. The program will air in Chicago on WTTW-TV (channel 11), on February 9 at 10:30 p.m. and on WYCC-TV (channel 20) on February 15 at 8 p.m.
“That’s where he really got a sense of the various kinds of problems people faced,” said historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of the experts featured in the documentary. “He got a sense of the exuberance of their dreams and their hopes. In a certain sense, I think it was the root of his political education.”
Reenactments of Lincoln defending a slaveholder trying to reclaim a slave named Jane Bryant and her children; brandishing a sword on the banks of the Mississippi River at dawn before being talked out of fighting a duel; and crossing the prairie reading a book atop his horse, Old Tom.
Interviews with experts, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Edna Greene Medford and Orville Vernon Burton, who describe how the circuit built the skills Lincoln used as president. The program will also be shown in some two dozen markets nationwide including Atlanta, Boston and Milwaukee, among others.
Underwriters: Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission; Country Financial; University of Illinois College of Law; Monticello Chamber of Commerce; Office of the Chancellor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum