The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 1, 2011

Lincoln’s friend tells story in own words

If Ward Hill Lamon were alive today, he would probably approve of a new book listing him as author and Bob O’Connor as editor.

Lamon, who was Abraham Lincoln’s law partner and bodyguard, wrote the book in 1880, but it didn’t fall into O’Connor’s hands until 2007.

“I feel I was chosen to do this project,” O’Connor said of the book, “The Life of Abraham Lincoln: As President.”

“No one else would have got it done.”

He said he doesn’t know why it was never published.

O’Connor, a native of Dixon, Ill., lives in Charles Town, W.Va., but has traveled to Danville for Arts in the Park the past three years. He plans to attend this year’s event, as well, on June 24-26.

He’s an expert on Lamon, who was born in Charles Town and moved to Danville when he was 18. He feels a connection with Lamon, and portrays him in the first person. Unlike O’Connor, Lamon had a habit of drinking, smoking and cussing.

“It’s fun to be him for a day,” O’Connor said, adding he even pretends to take nips from a flask (empty) during portrayals.

O’Connor learned there were Lamon papers in the Huntington Library in California. He got permission to do research there in October 2007, and was amazed when he found a manuscript — typewritten — by Lamon, who had terrible handwriting.

O’Connor bought permission to publish the documents, and the library sent a microfilm to him. He bought a microfilm reader on eBay, and began the tedious work of transcribing the words onto his computer.

Beginning in November 2007, it took him 300 hours to transcribe the 600 pages, and he completed the project last November — just days before his rights to the work expired. O’Connor didn’t work on it continuously, as he was working on other projects, and he works part-time for the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Charles Town.

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