Monday, August 3, 2009

Letter from David Smith, President of the Civil War Round Tables of Massachusetts

It was finally a warm spring Sunday evening on April 26, 2009. There were 160 people gathering at The National Archives-Boston facility at 380 Trapelo Rd. in Waltham to honor Professor James M. McPherson with the 12th Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. award for his entire body of work education and preserving our American History. They were led into the building with the music of Amoskeag Music, who also performed a few more times before and during the dinner.
Sadly, Professor McPherson became seriously ill with atrial fibrillations and heart arrhythmias five days before the dinner as he returned from one of his many trips around the country lecturing and promoting the 200th birthday of our 16th President, and had to cancel his personal appearance. His doctors forced him to cancel all of his other scheduled events for the foreseeable future, including the Harvard Symposium that weekend at the Boston Public Library. Despite knowing this, as a result of many emails and telephone calls, no one cancelled out or demanded a refund. This is a great tribute to the historians in this area.
The evening was still a magnificent success and everyone enjoyed themselves and all of the speakers and ceremonies. This organization is still receiving accolades from the attendees. A recent email from Professor McPherson again expressed his regrets and how he was (in his words) "blown away by the beauty and impressive good taste of the award," and "the honor that the Civil War Round Tables have done me." This Holmes Award was specifically designed for Professor McPherson to celebrate the Bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.

(Photo of the Holmes Award courtesy of David Smith)

The evening began with the Posting of the Colors by the 54th Mass. Regiment Volunteer Infantry, the Mass. Sons of Union Volunteers of the Civil War, and the Salem Zouaves. The Master of Ceremonies was Jack Williams who has been with Channel 4 TV in Boston as their main newsman for over 30 years. Jack is also a lover of history himself and creator of his "Wednesday's Child Foundation." One of the Archives employees, Jamimie Flanagan, a young lady with a beautiful voice, sang several times for us which thrilled the audience.

Professor Thomas Turner of Bridgewater State College and associated with the Mass. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission which also co-sponsored the evening, stepped in at the last minute to give a wonderful 30-minute presentation on "Lincoln in New England." Also speaking was Mr. Thomas Mills, the Assistant Archivist at the Washington DC National Archives. Historian Jay Hoar did a short presentation on Captain Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. Diane LeBlanc, the Regional Administrator of this facility, served as our official host.
As President of The CWRTs of Mass., I gave the official welcome, followed by our Mayor Jeanette McCarthy, who also gave us her welcome. Before we ended, our Vice-President Al Smith led us in a moment of silence for two of the Greater Boston members who passed away recently, Denis Griffin and Frank Tucker, both long time members who each left their footprints on our history. Al then gave Frank Tucker's son Kevin, the present State Commander of the Mass SUVCW, a flag to honor him. Denis Griffin's flag was sent to his widow; no one from his family being able to attend.
The Captain Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Award began in 1987, and is a product of the combined Executive Boards of The Civil War Round Table of Greater Boston and the Civil War Round Table of Central Mass. Shortly after this, the CWRT of Greater Boston began adding Round Tables at their request to become the Current Civil War Round Tables of Massachusetts and will soon have more additions. This award has become nationally known with past recipients being Jerry Russell, Edwin Cole Bearss, Annie Snyder, James Fahey, Ken Burns, John Hennessey, Dennis Frye, Robert E. "Ted" Turner, James I. "Bud" Robertston, Dr. Robert Pamplin, Jr., The Civil War Preservation Trust (James Lighthizer accepting), and this year to Dr. James M. McPherson.
Named for one of the most favorite of Massachusetts sons and brilliant Jurists here in the Bay State, on the United States Supreme Court, it is now one of the most prestigious of awards.
This year's award was given in abstentia by Robert Hall, who has given all of the awards to date. Bob is a lifetime member of the CWRT of Greater Boston and currently the President of the Olde Colony Civil War Round Table in Dedham, MA, as well as a member of the Lincoln Commission in Massachusetts.
This awards dinner had attendees from every CWRT in Massachusetts represented along with The Chamberlain CWRT, The Capital District CWRT of New York, the Hartford CWRT and many historical societies, genealogical societies, museum and veterans' organizations. We also had several guests from other honored organizations.
Respectfully Submitted,

David L. Smith, President,
The Civil War Round Tables of Massachusetts (est. 1957)

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