Historical Portraits

Portraits | Southern Illinois Tourism

Located at Smysor Plaza and the Daum Building in the Courthouse Square District downtown

 

Address: south 1100 and 1200 blocks on Walnut Street

 

HISTORICAL PORTRAITS – COURTHOUSE SQUARE DISTRICT

The portraits at Smysor Plaza and at the Daum Building are paintings dedicated to residents who have been critical to the development and betterment of Murphysboro.

 

Led by artist Inga Silver (Inga Comer-Keene), the original eight-portrait project at Smysor Plaza involved youth from the local 4-H. The 4-H “Grange Hall Lads and Lassies” helped the artist paint these in the basement of the Jackson County Extension office. Angelique Kuehl was the 4-H coordinator at the time. Some of the young artists for the initial renderings were Tabitha Marie, Jessica Herring-White, Megan Rose, and Ben Reiman, among others.

 

In 2022, the Revitalize 62966-Art in the Community committee added additional commissioned portraits at the Daum Building. Leading this component was Caitlin Langellier, the high school art teacher, and selected students in the class. For these paintings, the student artists’ names appear by their work.

 

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismGeorge Washington Smith – ( 1846-1907 )

Born in Putnam County, Ohio, Smith moved with his father to Wayne County, Illinois, in 1850 and learned the blacksmith trade. In 1868 he graduated from the literary department of McKendree College. He then went to Indiana University and received a law degree in 1870. He was admitted to the bar the same year and set up his practice in Murphysboro, serving as Master in Chancery from 1880-1888. In 1884, he married Mary Alice Dailey, also of Murphysboro. Smith was elected to the 51st and the nine succeeding Congresses, serving from March 4, 1889, until his death on November 30, 1907. He served as chairman of the Committee on Private Land Claims (54th through 59th Congresses). He was interred in the City Cemetery.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismDr. John Logan – ( 1788-1853 )

Dr. John Logan was born November 16, 1788, in Monaghan County, Ireland, of Scotch-Irish descent, and came to the United States with his parents, John and Elizabeth (Pharrell) Logan, in 1793. He moved to Jackson County in 1822, where he married Elizabeth Jenkins. Dr. Logan served four terms in the Illinois Legislature and became a friend of Abraham Lincoln. In 1839, Lincoln suggested that Logan County be named in his honor. In 1843, Dr. Logan gave land for the new county seat of Murphysboro and soon built the Logan House Hotel on this site. He is the father of General John A. Logan. Dr. Logan died on November 4, 1853, and was buried in Murphysboro, IL.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismSallie Logan – ( 1851-1936 )

Sallie Logan was born on April 15, 1851, to Sara Ann, a direct descendant of John Hancock, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Sallie and her family moved to the Carbondale area when she was 17. Sallie and Tom Logan (John A.’s brother) were married on August 23, 1873, and in 1891, they acquired land located at 18th and Walnut and built a large brick residence. She was described as “neat and dainty and always met you with a smile. She was very positive in her views and usually won out, but she was generally right…strong and high spirited.” After Tom died in 1907, she took his place as a director of the Murphysboro Electric Railway, Light, Heat & Power Company, and the Murphysboro Telephone Company. Serving as secretary and treasurer, she was known throughout the community for her business sense and philanthropy. When she died on April 29, 1936, the city accepted the property “in perpetuity as a free public library and community and social center for the benefit and common good of the inhabitants of Murphysboro.” On May 2, 1938, the city opened Sallie Logan Public Library in the former Logan house on May 2, 1938.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismHarry Albert Herring – ( 1878-1946 )

Harry Albert Herring was known for his outstanding work in the field of firefighters. Fire Chief Herring retired from active service in September 1945 after serving in that office for 45 years. He organized the Egyptian Fire Fighters Association soon after the tornado of March 1925. The only living honorary life member of both the International Fire Chief’s Association and the Pacific Association of Fire Chiefs, Herring was a member of the Illinois State Fireman’s Association and president of the Murphysboro Park Board. He achieved national recognition for his organization of fire prevention education in public schools, a program that he saw become a nationwide part of public school efforts.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismJim Deal – ( 1898-1984 )

Benjamin Deal – ( 1906-1983 )

The Deal Brothers were legendary figures in Murphysboro, gaining reputations with their blacksmith trade and civic-minded contributors to Southern Illinois. Visits to their blacksmith and grocery store at 17th and Logan Street created lifetime memories. Jim and Benjamin came to Murphysboro from Mississippi in 1922, and Jim was later honored on the national television program “This Is Your Life” for his work on the Bald Knob cross.  Jim Deal is depicted in the Smysor Plaza portraits.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismDr. Andrew R. Esposito – ( 1908-2001 )

Dr. Andrew R. Esposito of Murphysboro, IL, a WW II Army Medical Corps veteran, was a well-known and respected physician/surgeon. He would also become the medical director of the Jackson County Nursing Home, a medical adviser to the county health department, and a practitioner at the Eurma C. Hayes Clinic in Carbondale. Active in professional groups, civic organizations, and church, Esposito headed the Southern Illinois Medical Association during its 100th anniversary. He also directed the Jackson County and Illinois Heart Associations, Jackson County Mental Health Association, and Jackson County Medical Society. He was also on the board of the Illinois Chapter American Cancer Society. Over the years, two separate Murphysboro mayors declared a day honoring his life of service to the city. In 1998 he was the grand marshal of the Murphysboro Apple Festival Grand Parade. He also received Quality of Life Services Inc.’s Quality Service Award.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismCarl Lee – ( 1901-1986 )

Carl Lee was among the first blacks to graduate from Southern Illinois Normal University in 1928. (SINU later became SIUC.). While attending SINU, he created the Dunbar Society, which later became the Jackson County Branch of the NAACP. Years later, the Jackson County NAACP honored Carl Lee with a Banquet. Mr. Lee was appointed by Governor Henry Horner in 1940 to a 15-member State Commission to plan the “Negro Exposition” in Chicago that celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. He obtained two law degrees from the University of Illinois but never practiced law, saying he preferred to educate children. He attended Bethel AME church in Murphysboro and served on the Murphysboro Zoning Board and The Murphysboro Retired Teachers Association Board. When prominent community members like Flynn Robinson returned to Murphysboro, Carl Lee introduced them. He was the first black person in Murphysboro to have a day proclaimed in their honor in 1976; the Murphysboro Black Alumni Society has yearly recognized that day.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismSister Mary Bede – ( 1924-2007 )

Sister Mary Bede, a “spiritual presence in the city of Murphysboro,” was a staple of St. Joseph Memorial Hospital since her start there in 1960, including hospital administrator, nurse supervisor, and Director of Nursing for the facility. She was the first woman to get a citizenship award from Murphysboro in the 1970s and the first woman to receive the Minerva Award, given by the Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce. She also started and led the annual prayer breakfast for the Apple Festival, which included pastors from all denominations. She was described as “always first with sound advice and a friendly smile.”

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismStephen Bostick – ( 1844-1928 )  artist: Mav Kjelberg

Stephen Bostick was born in 1844 and began his life as a slave in Arkansas. After the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he enlisted in the Union Navy with two brothers and a cousin. At the end of the Civil War, his brothers settled 5 miles from the edge of Murphysboro, where Stephen joined them in 1866. This area became known as the Bostick Settlement. The Bostick Settlement had farms, a school, a church, and a cemetery. Mr. Bostick was a successful farmer and community member. He helped to establish the Murphysboro Grand Army of the Republic Post Number 728 in 1890. Stephen Bostick died in 1928.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismKay Bozarth – ( 1930-2020 )   artist: Ari Rebman

Ruby Catherine “Kay” Bozarth was born on April 15, 1930. She was a member of the United Methodist Church and Sunday School Class, Welcoming Committee, and Staff Relations Committee. She devoted her life to being involved in Murphysboro community events. Kay was a member of P.E.O. She started the first Apple Festival Scholarship Tea and was also a Co-Chair of the Apple Festival Prayer Breakfast for 7 years. She was also a founder of the John A. Logan Museum and Logan Breakfast fundraiser, as well as a founder of Table-Scapes. This event funded historical preservation for Murphysboro and Carbondale. She organized and established the Murphysboro Reads Volunteer Program for all first-grade students in Murphysboro, bringing in retirees to individually read with children every week. After the death of her husband, she was instrumental in forming the Ernie Bozarth Basketball League for third, fourth, and fifth-grade students in Murphysboro. She supported Red Devil Basketball, SIUC Basketball, and SIUC Girl’s Gold. She volunteered for SIUC Arts and Education and Thanksgiving and Christmas community dinners.

Kay received the Apple Festival Founder’s Award in 2006, the Diana Award from Beta Psi Chapter in 2008, the Alpha Kappa Society Award for Literacy in 2009, and the General John A. Logan Founder Award in 2011. She was inducted into the Murphysboro Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Murphysboro Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in 2018. She was a 50-year-old member of Eastern Star and an RTA member. She was appointed to the Murphysboro District 186 Education Foundation Board in 2009 and served on the Murphysboro Distinguished Alumni Board. Her life was devoted to service and the betterment of the community. She died in 2020.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismCyrus Thomas – ( 1825-1910 )  artist: Olivia Cook

Cyrus Thomas was an ethnologist (studying different peoples and the relationships between them) and entomologist (studying insects) in the late 19th century noted for his studies of the natural history of the American West. Thomas was born in Tennessee in 1825 and later moved to Murphysboro. Initially interested in medicine, his passion led him to explore law, archeology, entomology, and climatology. His many fields of knowledge made him an essential part of Murphysboro’s history. In 1858, with a strong interest in natural history, he founded the Illinois Natural History Society and became a Southern Illinois Normal University professor. His professional, scientific career brought him positions with the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, the United States Entomological Commission, and the United States Bureau of American Ethnology. His work helped support the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Thomas’ first wife was General John A. Logan’s sister Dorothy. He died in 1910, and his work remains influential throughout the United States.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismRobert Mohlenbrock – ( 1931– )   artist: Xander Reeder

Born in 1931, Robert H. Mohlenbrock had always been fascinated with the flora of his hometown, Murphysboro, Illinois. His fascination grew as he nurtured it into a career. After graduating from Murphysboro High School, he completed both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He received a Ph.D. in Biology studying at Washington University. Dr. Mohlenbrock was a faculty member at Southern Illinois University for 33 years as a professor, chairman, and curator. Outside of his work at SIUC, he taught in over 32 states, published 80+ books, and was a consultant for many organizations, including the Army Corp of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service. He was also a chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Robert Mohlenbrock was instrumental in establishing protected natural areas in southern Illinois, including Heron Pond and Little Black Slough Nature Preserve, a designated National Natural Landmark. A national authority in his field, his drive to ensure the protection of our area’s natural beauty and resources will always be appreciated and remembered.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismR.Z. Gill – ( 1866–1951 )  artist: Katie Herzog

Rudolph Zerses Gill was born in Urbana, Illinois, in 1866. He graduated with a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in 1887. In the early 20th century, “Doll” Gill began securing architectural contracts in St. Louis, southeast Missouri, and southern Illinois. In 1902 he began purchasing property in Jackson County, where he eventually relocated. He designed several distinctive structures in Murphysboro. Prominent buildings include the Murphysboro Elks Lodge, now known as the Murphysboro Event Center on Walnut Street. This building was built in 1916 in the Classical Revival style. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. Another building designed by Mr. Gill is the Barth and Walker Building on the corner of Locust and Thirteenth Street. In its original design, the building featured three storefronts on the ground level and a club and dance hall on the second floor. It served as a central dressing station for injuries to those that could walk after the 1925 tri-state tornado. In 1983 this building was the subject of a watercolor painting featured in “American Artist Magazine.” The VanCloostere Building on Walnut Street, directly across from the Courthouse, was also designed by R. Z. Gill. In 1939 “Doll” Gill built the Riverside Park Band Shell. The structure was made of white poured concrete in the Modern style, with plain curvilinear lines, funded jointly by the WPA and the Murphysboro Park District. This landmark is a featured part of many events at Riverside Park annually. The “Shell” was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012. He also designed the baseball stadium at Riverside Park and Logan School on Fourteenth Street. Rudolph Zerses Gill died in Murphysboro in 1951.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismMike Jones – ( 1945- )  artist:  Anika Cook

P. Michael Jones is the General John A. Logan Museum Executive Director in Murphysboro, Illinois. Mike Jones was born in 1945 and is a lifelong resident of Murphysboro. Opening in 1989, the General John A. Logan Museum is a historic town centerpiece, and Jones has been the critical element in the growth of the Museum. Mr. Jones kindly volunteered his time, energy, and extensive knowledge to bring Southern Illinois’ Civil War era history to Murphysboro through films, programs, and exhibits. Every year he hosts numerous school field trips, activities, and educational events for all ages. Mike retired after 40 years of teaching sixth-grade social studies in Murphysboro Unit District 186. He has received many awards throughout his life. Those accolades included the Illinois Humanities Council Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award in 2000, the SIU History Department’s Outstanding History Teacher in Southern Illinois Award in 2001, and the Illinois State Historical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. We are indebted to his expertise, community spirit, and dedication.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismIsaac Levy – ( 1878–1963 )  artist:  Finn Lloyd

Isaac Levy was born in Murphysboro in 1878, becoming a practicing attorney in the town for 63 years. Admitted to the bar in 1899, he studied law in the office of Thomas H. Phillips and John M. Herbert. He later associated with his brother in the firm of Levy and Levy. He was elected State’s Attorney of Jackson County in 1908 and served one term. He was a past president of the Federation of Local Bar associations for the Supreme Court District of Illinois and President of the Murphysboro Chamber of Commerce. Professional appointments included serving on the Committee on Character and Fitness for the Fourth District Appellate Court and holding several positions with the State Bar Association. During World War I, he chaired the Legal Advisory Board for Jackson County, the Relief Committee, and the Red Cross Advisory Committee. While serving on the Murphysboro Grade School Board of Education, Levy authored a bill that provided $275,000.00 to rebuild damaged schools in the 1925 tornado while leading the Murphysboro Relief Committee to rebuild the town. Adding to his many accomplishments, he helped design the plans to build the present county courthouse, the current blacktop road from Murphysboro to Desoto, and Desoto to Hurst. Levy was a member of the Elks Lodge 572 and the Masonic Lodge AF&AM 498 of Murphysboro. He died in 1963.

Portraits | Revitalize62966Myrtle McKinney – ( 1906–2015 )   artists:  Alexxis Newton & Rosa Gordon

Myrtle Allen McKinnie was born June 26, 1906, in Carrier Mills, Illinois. Mrs. McKinnie was an exemplary member of her community. Her kindness, devotion to others, smile, love for children, and thirst for knowledge were always apparent. She graduated from University High School in Carbondale. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois Normal College in 1927. Her lifelong goal was to become a teacher, and she realized that goal in 1927 when she began teaching in Alton, Illinois. On July 25, 1929, she married Cato McKinnie. Family was especially important, and together they raised five children. She had eight grandchildren and ten great-children.

For 25 years, she taught in Murphysboro elementary and junior high schools. After retirement, she tutored and mentored countless children, instilling the importance of learning. She also helped them receive an education. Her firm belief was that education was a great equalizer and provided an opportunity for growth. This belief has been passed down to generations to this day. In furthering her teaching ability, she taught Sunday School for many years as a devoted Christian and member of the United Methodist Church of Murphysboro.

Mrs. McKinnie was active in many local, state, civic, and professional organizations. She served as president of the Jackson County unit of the Illinois Retired Teachers Association and the Jackson County Nursing Home Auxiliary. Additionally, she was an active member of the National Education Association, SIU Alumni Association, and Triad-Jackson County Home Extension. She received several awards for her efforts and leadership. The Illinois Hospital Association honored her with a Leadership Award. As a St. Joseph’s Memorial Hospital Auxiliary member, she received the Illinois State Council’s DIANA Award to women who demonstrated remarkable service to others. She was honored to be Grand Marshal of the Apple Festival Parade at one hundred years old. Mrs. McKinnie’s hobbies included arts and crafts, crocheting, quilting, exercising, and collecting poetry. She was an avid reader and loved to write in her many journals. Myrtle Allen McKinnie passed on January 5, 2015, at the age of 108.

Portraits | Southern Illinois TourismMike Mills – ( 1941-2020 )  artists:  Trinity Ince & Allison Followell

Mike Mills was born July 15, 1941, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He was a graduate of Murphysboro High School, Class of 1959. He was a member of the 1958 Hall of Fame football team. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 2014. Mr. Mills was a graduate of the first dental technology of Southern Illinois. He also founded the Murphysboro Dental Lab in 1963. He was an active member of the Elks, Masons, and Shriners. He earned the moniker “The Legend” in the early 1990s when he was co-captain of the Apple City barbecue team, one of the most celebrated teams ever on the circuit. He opened 17th Street Barbecue in 1985 and was called the “most revered barbecue restauranteur in America.” He was the barbecue guru, a partner at Blue Smoke restaurant in New York City, and a founding partner in the Memphis Championship Barbecue in Las Vegas. He is co-authored two books: Peace, Love, and Barbecue and Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations from a Legendary Life in Barbecue. He was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2010. Mike Mills died at the age of 79 after a brief non-Covid related illness on December 29, 2020.

Lawanda “Blondie” Fager (1926-2020) admitted she thrived on being active and was a “people person.” Her life reflected that statement, while her actions were a testament to helping whomever or wherever the need.

Lawanda was born in Murphysboro on January 28, 1926, and graduated from MTHS in 1943 (completing her senior year at Murphysboro High School in Dayton, Ohio, on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where she contributed to the war effort as a secretary.) She married Victor Fager for 57 years until he died in 2004. Together, they worked on their family’s farm and raised six children with 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Not one to sit on the sidelines watching, Lawanda had always been an active member of her church, Immanuel Lutheran, and the community. She loved to dance and travel with her husband. She had been incredibly philanthropic in 4-H, where she began as a leader in 1965. She was recognized for 50 years of service in 2015 as a dedicated 4-H volunteer, club leader, and many other roles. Even in her later years, she loved to learn new things and try new hobbies.

Through 4-H, she mentored and inspired generations of members, hosted numerous foreign youths, and was a founding force in establishing the 4-H community garden in 1991, donating countless hours towards its success. The garden is “growing” strong today with all the produce donated to the Murphysboro Food Bank.

Her children lovingly referred to her as the “Ever Ready Bunny!”  She worked at the Food Bank weekly and the community garden, was a member of Home Extension for 59 years, attended 4-H workshops and meetings to assist, delivered Meals-on-Wheels, visited sick and home-bound with the Sunshine Team, was involved in the Lutheran Women Missionary League, helped during Immanuel’s pre-school lunch, attended weekly exercise and line dance classes, and was a church greeter on Sunday morning. She passed away on November 30, 2020, at St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro.

Leah Sims, an educator who graced the halls of the Murphysboro school system, left an indelible mark on the lives of countless students. Named “Best Musician” by her 1948 high school graduating class, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, in 1952 and a Master of Education in Music Teacher Education from Florida State University in 1953.

 

 

Sims possessed an infectious vibrance that illuminated every classroom she entered, a caring attitude that resonated with her students, and an unwavering dedication to her pupils and her craft. Her profound impact sparked former students and staff to comment about how she had a “tremendous impact on thousands of students. Her pupils are now doctors, nurses, educators, caregivers, fashion designers, engineers, playwrights, police officers, military personnel, lawyers, and even a United States Congressman. Ask literally anyone who attended Murphysboro Middle or High School that had the honor of being her student, and they will tell you she made the greatest impact on their primary or secondary education of any teacher. Her instruction, guidance, and empathy were carried by all of us as we entered adulthood.”

 

 

Sims taught in the school district from 1969 to 1985. Over her tenure as the district’s primary, middle, and high school chorus director, she directed winning performances, competitions, and school plays. She also directed the community choir in Handel’s Messiah for years, performing the choral works at local churches.

 

 

On October 9, 2015, she was honored in the Illinois House of Representatives by Representative Mike Bost and the 114th United States Congress on her 85th birthday. The proclamation proudly stated, “Mrs. Sims has been a fixture in her community as both an educator and leader, and there is not a person that has met her who hasn’t been positively affected by her compassion, thoughtfulness, and humility. Her life-long impact on the students lucky enough to call her their teacher is something worth honoring.”

 

 

One former student summarized the humble yet inspirational impact of Mrs. Sims: “She touched the lives of almost every student to walk the halls in the Murphysboro school system!”