Three were honored with the Human Rights Award during the annual Lovejoy Memorial celebration Nov. 13. (From left) Ed Gray, registered agent and trustee; award recipient the Rev. Michael Logan, award recipient Robert Burjes, Patricia King, president of the Lovejoy Memorial; and award recipient Gail Burjes (seated).
GODFREY — The memory of Elijah P. Lovejoy was celebrated on Nov. 13 during the 51st annual dinner at the Hatheway Cultural Center at Lewis and Clark Community College.
Along with celebrating the life and legacy of Lovejoy just days after his Nov. 9 birthday, the annual Human Rights Award was presented to the Rev. Michael Logan and Gail and Robert Burjes. Approximately 150 people attended the dinner that has became a yearly event to allow members to review the previous year’s goals and financial records and to present awards.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born Nov. 9, 1802, in Albion, Maine. Throughout his life, he journeyed from the East Coast to the Midwest and ultimately became pastor of the Des Peres Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. Lovejoy published a religious newspaper, The St. Louis Observer, and began to advocate the abolition of slavery before moving to Alton in 1836 after a mob destroyed his printing press.
In Alton, Lovejoy became the Stated Clerk of the Presybytery and the first pastor of the present College Avenue Presbyterian Church. He wrote and published the Alton Observer even after pro-slavery mobs destroyed three presses. Persevering despite the bitter feelings toward him, Lovejoy continued to argue for the rights of freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom from slavery.
Staying true to his convictions, Lovejoy was the target of attacks that ultimately took his life on Nov. 7, 1837, while he and some of his supporters tried in vain to protect a fourth press at the Godfrey & Gilman warehouse. Lovejoy was buried on his 35th birthday in an unmarked grave in the Alton City Cemetery before he was moved to his new gravesite and the location of the Elijah P. Lovejoy memorial.
In 1897, the state of Illinois erected the Lovejoy monument, known as the state’s tallest freestanding monument.
“Lovejoy gave the ultimate sacrifice and stood for what he knew was right,” Lovejoy Memorial President Patricia King said. “Most people would have given up or hushed their beliefs, but Lovejoy, as a young man, was very brave and it is thought that the battle between Lovejoy’s supporters and pro-slavery supporters on the night he lost his life was the first undocumented battle of the Civil War.”
In 1952-1953, the first memorial scholarship was established under the fundraising efforts of the Lovejoy Memorial’s first president, Jess Cannon, and his wife, Charlene. Alton High School graduate Sterline Scales received a $50 scholarship in 1954. Over the next 20 years, the scholarship grew from $50 to $350 per year for each recipient.
“Alton and Marquette students can go online and fill out an application for the Lovejoy Memorial scholarship,” King said. “Past recipients are so grateful that often they come back and donate back into the fund themselves. Each year it’s grown and it’s hard to believe that now each student is receiving $6,250 for four years. Recipients are determined through their academic achievement, financial need, and they go through an application process which includes a letter of reference, teacher recommendations and an interview. Lovejoy would be proud; we currently have a couple journalism students who are recipients.”
The Lovejoy Memorial Academic Achievement Award, a non-renewable, $3,000 scholarship, was awarded in June. The 2015 students were Hanah Batchelor, Toby Berglund, Kaylee Bowen, Morrisan Connolly, Symone Green, Madeline Hornsey, Darian Stevenson, Joseph Twichell and Monica Wickenhauser. The 2015 Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial Scholarship recipient was Jordann Wilson, the 70th recipient since 1954. She will receive $6,250 per year for four years of undergraduate study.
The 2015 Human Rights award was presented to Gail and Robert Burjes and the Rev. Michael Logan.
Logan became an Alton resident in 1985 and is a licensed and ordained minister through Anchor Bay Evangelists Association. An Alabama A & M graduate, he was employed at Owens Illinois Glass in Godfrey for 20 years.
“He (Rev. Logan) gives so much to the community,” King said. “People don’t know what all he does. It’s his way to give quietly without fanfare. Presenting the Human Rights Award to Rev. Logan is our way of saying thank you for all he has done for others. He writes and produces gospel CDs. The profits from those CDs have allowed him to set up another scholarship that students from Wood River, Alton High School, Civic Memorial, Marquette and Jerseyville students have received. He and his wife, Carol, visit local senior centers once a month. They are truly good people.”
Gail and Robert Burjes has been involved with the Lovejoy Memorial organization for more than 20 years. Along with their dedication to local arts, the couple has volunteered and worked in the Alton School District in student programs.
“They have given of themselves for years in the Alton School District,” Lovejoy Memorial Treasurer Ed Gray said. “Gail was an assistant teacher at AHS and worked with the student council, the Redbirds Nest and fundraising events. Gail and her husband, Robert, started the Olde Alton Arts and Crafts Fair almost 30 years ago to raise funds for the Alton instrumental music program.
“Our community has been given so much through the dedication of these three individuals and it was an honor to show them the appreciation they have done so much to earn.”
Anyone wishing to become a member of the Lovejoy Memorial and donate to the scholarship fund can send a tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 214, Alton, IL 62002, attention: Brenda Vernatti.