Hamburg Public Library, Thursday, September 13, 6:30pm
Jack will provide anecdotes of what took place this week 150 years ago in this area. Jack is chairman of the Michigan History Foundation and has been a history buff since he was a small child. Books will be available for purchase.
A light-hearted post. For those of us who are fans of Loren Estleman, whether it be his western or his mystery writing, a couple Civil War-related references in Infernal Angels, the latest excellent entry in the Amos Walker series, seems in order to bridge over to those of us who are also CW enthusiasts:
"The pills were kicking in when we got to the stairs to my office, in a building John Brown had passed when he'd come North looking for someone to underwrite the raid on Harpers Ferry." - p. 133
"'Can we save the Union tomorrow? Today I want to find Ouida.'" - p. 188
That's the name of a column by Steve Thorpe in the Detroit Legal News that included this recent interview DLN:
John M. Dempsey is an attorney at Dickinson Wright and was just elected president of the Michigan Historical Commission. His legal experience of more than three decades includes energy, legislative, public utility, and telecommunications law. He currently focuses on administrative and regulatory issues facing clients in the telecommunications, electric, and natural gas sectors. He is also author of “Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice” published by the History Press. He also co-authored with his brother Dave “Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors,” just published by MSU Press.
Thorpe: Attorney and historian … is it a natural fit? Dempsey: Clearly for me, yes. I became an attorney out of love for our constitutional form of government, and the law is all about precedent or making history. My history interest predates my career in the law by a few years: I was fascinated by the Civil War as early as the third grade. It’s turning out to be the next phase of what I’m about.
Thorpe: The commission dates back to 1913. Can you give us some of the history behind the keepers of the history? Dempsey: The Commission managed the State’s official history programs for its first 50 years, turning it over to the Department of State when the 1963 Constitution was adopted. It had a budget, staff, and responsibility for keeping the State’s history flame burning. It published monographs and “Michigan History,” which evolved into a magazine. The adoption of the Constitution meant the Commission would continue to shepherd the State Historical Marker program while becoming more of an advisor and advocate to State government. In 2007 it was assigned the role of helping Michigan commemorate the Civil War Sesquicentennial. It also takes on selected projects like Capitol Park and the U.S. Grant House.
On August 25, the Commission will host a tribute ceremony at the Antietam Battlefield commemorating our Civil War forebears.
Today, seven members are appointed by the governor, the other two by the House speaker and Senate majority leader. Most are relatively new appointees (I’ve been on since 2007). We are nonpartisan. We are to a person passionate about elevating Michigan history to the place in our cultural fabric it should attain.
Thorpe: Explain the relationship between the Historical Commission and the DNR.
Dempsey: The Commission is housed in DNR with the professional historians of the Michigan Historical Center. The Center receives a small amount of general funding. We seek to work collaboratively with the DNR, and the long history of our State parks and contribution to our quality of life makes it a very god fit. All 9 commissioners are citizen volunteers who serve without compensation.
Thorpe: Which museums are involved with the commission and what are their roles?
Dempsey: We advise the State Historical Museums system, from Lansing to Fayette. And two of our newest members have day jobs running the Gerald R. Ford and The Henry Ford museums.
Thorpe: What are the Archives of Michigan?
Dempsey: The Archives are a key part of the Center, maintaining Michigan’s official and collected records and images. It used to be the place where people visited to do research. Increasingly, it has much more to offer by taking collections online, accepting opportunities to preserve priceless private collections, and envisioning new channels to save our heritage. The State Archivist, Mark Harvey, is a Michigan treasure.
Thorpe: Any future plans for the group you can share?
Dempsey: Next year’s our Centennial celebration with lots planned. It’s an opportunity to celebrate 100 years of public appreciation for our heritage. It is also the time to develop a plan for the next century, strategizing how Michigan government should work with the many individuals and organizations that are committed, despite many obstacles, to promote our history. What investment strategy is required for assets that taxpayers have spent hard-earned dollars to construct? What public/private partnership is optimal? How can our Commission best serve the people of Michigan as we journey down new paths?
In 2013 the Civil War Sesqui will see a heavy Gettysburg focus (Michigan had a key role). Plus look for a reinvented Olympics-quality Marker program that seeks to use new technology and play into Michigan tourism. There are ways to emphasize themes in existing and to-be-developed markers like conservation and civil rights (to name just two). Our partners at the Michigan History Foundation will also play an important role.
I had the great privilege last nite to deliver some remarks and sign some books at the Mills Community House in Benzonia MI, the hometown of America's greatest Civil War historian. In fact, that was the title of the talk:
Thursday, June 14, 7PM
Benzonia Academy Lecture Series at the Mills Community House
"America's Civil War Historian: Bruce Catton" by John Dempsey
How did a self-effacing lad from small town Michigan emerge after his 50th birthday to become America's foremost writer of Civil War history? What was it about his writing that made him an author with lasting impact on generations of readers? Where does he stand in the continuing great debate over the War's causes, effects, and legacy? Jack Dempsey's presentation will address these aspects of Benzonia native Catton's career during this second year of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. Jack Dempsey is an attorney and author of the 2011 Michigan Notable Book Michigan and the Civil War: A Great and Bloody Sacrifice. Jack is vice-president of the Michigan Historical Commission, chairman of its Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, and Chairman of the Michigan History Foundation.
I was in awe to stand in the place where Mr. Catton grew up -- and on "holy ground" not far from Glory Road where he returned years later to spend summers writing more of his classics.
Yours truly has the honor of attempting to say some appropriate words tomorrow at the dedication in Monroe of a new monument to their Civil War Fallen. What a tribute to the soldiers who laid down their lives for their Nation, and what a testimonial to today's Michiganders who contributed to making this memorial happen during the weekend! It's a full afternoon of events.
Book signing is at the Sawyer House, with 12 noon as the official start time for events. The Sawyer House and Soldiers & Sailors Park are just a little east of downtown Monroe on East Front Street, right along the south side of the River Raisin.
Wednesday and Thursday the red convertible will be journeying west and east across the L.P. to do four presentations at Cooley Law School locations: Cooley . Problem: talk law and the Civil War, or talk Michigan and the Civil War, or talk both? Guess you'll have to come and find out.......
Will be in the Windy City tomorrow at the behest of an invitation due to some good friends who are members of the University Club of Chicago to talk about Michigan and the Civil War. Might get into a little Illinois vs. Michigan stuff. Or perhaps will show commonalities. Nice, very nice, to give a history presentation at such a historic club in a city that loves its history.