There are at least nine distinct definitions of what a “legend” is… and using those different meanings, Tazewell County has many legends within our boundaries. There is the “legend of Hazel,” the ghost who can be heard walking upstairs in the remaining portion of the old county nursing home. Employees who have worked late in those offices have many tales to tell. We also have “legends” on the GIS maps that are accessible through the Tazewell County website.
But for this article, I will focus on the primary definition of “legend”: an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field. There are many, many people who were and are legendary in Tazewell County—people whose names we encounter every day and do not even realize who or why they were legendary.
Shades of History
For starters, Littleton Tazewell, a United States Senator and governor from the State of Virginia, is the man after which our county is named. There is Edward C. Delavan, a temperance advocate from Albany, New York, who the City of Delavan is named after. The Village of Morton is named for Marcus Morton, who was governor of Massachusetts in 1843.
Each day, 36,700 automobiles drive across the Shade-Lohmann Bridge on Interstate 474. Who were these two legends? Norman Shade was a former Pekin mayor and Illinois legislator, while Martin B. Lohmann served for 30 consecutive years in the state legislature.
Over in Pekin, the McNaughton Bridge was named for John McNaughton, who was born in the city and became the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. He died in a plane crash in 1967, two weeks before he was to become Secretary of the Navy.
The main offices for Tazewell County government are housed in the McKenzie Building. Clarence “Clem” McKenzie served as the Tazewell County Board chairman when the board decided to build a new administration building and jail. A World War I veteran, McKenzie began serving on the board in 1935 and was integral in the construction process. After his death, a resolution was passed in 1969 renaming the administration building in honor of his service.
Many legends are still active and impacting their communities every day, in ways big and small. Astronaut Scott Altman, a native of Pekin, participated in four Space Shuttle missions. As a captain in the U.S. Navy, he has received numerous medals for his service and even performed in the popular 1986 movie Top Gun. A primary school in Pekin was renamed in his honor in 2010.
Another living legend of Tazewell County is Jim Carius of Morton. Mr. Carius served faithfully on the Tazewell County Board for over 38 years, and I consider him one of my mentors. He started his career as a basketball coach and has made a mark on many, many lives through his encouragement and wisdom.
Finally, on behalf of Tazewell County, I would like to congratulate and thank all of the Local Legends being honored this year, especially Royal Coulter. Although he does not live in our County, Mr. Coulter’s impact is felt in many big ways. Having a trusted partner like him and his family makes governing Tazewell County a little easier—just one of the countless reasons he is being honored. We look forward to working together well into the future with all of our Local Legends. iBi