The magnificent Ballroom at the new headquarters of the Carpenters District Council in Chicago was filled to the brim as the Illinois Labor History Society celebrated its 35 years of service to the labor movement and the public.
Some 200 well-wishers were on hand when Larry Spivack, newly elected Chair of the ILHS Board, called the guests to order and asked Trustee Alma Washington to read a letter. The congratulatory message was from Jerry O'Connor, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The former leader of IBEW Local 134 in Chicago has been a strong supporter of ILHS since its founding in 1969.
Co-Chairs of the evening were Dennis Gannon, President of the Chicago Federation of Labor, and President Margaret Blackshere of the Illinois AFL-CIO. A moving invocation by Rev. Addie Wyatt was followed by Vice President Bill Adelman who presented an illustrated account of our many accomplishments over the years.
Don Turner, retired President of the CFL, was the principal speaker of the evening. His talk about the importance of labor history was so warmly applauded that President Les Orear promised to post Don's remarks on the ILHS web site where it will be available to all comers.
The event concluded with the induction into the Union Hall of Honor of Les Orear, a founder of the ILHS and its President since the beginning. President Blackshere brought with her from Springfield a letter from Governor Rod Blagojevich, lauding Les Orear and the ILHS for its years of good work on behalf of labor history. He said: "Throughout the years, you have never wavered in your belief that we can all learn from the past, both from our mistakes and our triumphs."
President Gannon read the citation on the handsome plaque and presented it to Orear, who appeared overwhelmed by the honors.
But more was to come! The big surprise was the presentation of a portrait of the veteran ILHS president. The 27" x 24" framed painting was displayed to the gathering by the artist, O. W. Neebe, grandson of Haymarket martyr Oscar Neebe, who had been pardoned by Gov. Altgeld in 1893.
Former Trustee, Alan Schwartz, now a resident of Ohio, provided his inspirational labor songs and led the singing of Solidarity Forever, as the Union Hall of Honor Awards Dinner, 2004 concluded.
The event will be telecast on Chicago Access Network TV21 on Sunday, December 19 at 3:00 PM. The program will repeat on Tuesday, December 21 at 9:00 AM on CAN TV19.