There is one officer of the U.S. House of Representatives who is in the unique position of not having to worry too much about whether Republicans or Democrats win a majority of seats in November. He has already been told by leaders of both parties that they will renominate him for his current job, Chaplain of the House. He is Father Daniel P. Coughlin, a Chicago native, who formerly served as Vicar of Priests in Cook County as the special liaison for Cardinal George to the priests and visa versa. At the annual meeting of the Illinois State Society of Washington, DC in June 2006, he was also drafted as official Chaplain of the Society by a vote of the members.
Father Coughlin was born in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago in 1934 and graduated from St. Mary of the Lake University in Mundelein. He worked as an associate pastor of St. Raymond Parish in Mount Prospect and at Holy Name Cathedral. He received an advanced degree in pastoral studies at Loyola University, worked as the first Director of the Office of Divine Worship and from 1985 to 1990 he was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in La Grange. He then returned to Mundelein to be Director for the Cardinal Stritch Retreat House. He has also spent time in Rome and Calcutta.
On March 23, 2000, he was sworn in as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives replacing Rev. James Ford. Rev. Ford was the first Lutheran pastor in the history of the House and Father Coughlin is the first Roman Catholic clergyman ever to hold that post since 1776.
On Saturday, June 17, 2006, Father Coughlin took members of the Illinois State Society of Washington, DC on a tour of the U.S. Capitol that was supposed to last only one hour. But like the passengers and crew of the Minnow, it turned out to be a three-hour tour due to Coughlin's enthusiasm for the Capitol building and the group's response. The group saw wall to wall Illinois memories in Statuary Hall including the two official statues of Illinois of Gen. and Senator James Shields and Northwestern University Dean of Women, suffragist and temperance crusader Frances Willard.
Two Speakers of the House from Illinois prior to Dennis Hastert were Uncle Joe Cannon from Danville and Henry Rainey from Carollton, the former seen in a bust and the latter in a portrait on the wall. Two Illinois vice presidents mentioned in my last post, Charles Dawes and Adlai Stevenson both have busts in a hallway behind the Senate chamber.
The current Speaker's office looks out on the mall directly down on a statue of President and Gen. U.S. Grant from Galena, Illinois riding a horse. The Lincoln statues, busts, and paintings at the capitol and all over Washington are too numerous to count.
Idaho has a statue of Sen. William Borah but he was born and raised in Illinois. Nebraska has a statue of William Jennings Bryan but he too was born in Salem, Illinois, raised there, and attended the Illinois College of Law. The location of Abe Lincoln's desk when he was a member of the House is carefully preserved in the old House Chamber, now part of the Statuary Hall.
Father Coughlin says he has been told that the new underground visitor's center is scheduled to open in Spring 2007. We'll see. But from the East Front windows, members of the Illinois State Society could still see the pin oak tree from Peoria that was planted in 1969 by society members to honor Sen. Everett M. Dirksen. So far, it has survived the damage that bulldozers have done to other trees near the visitor's center.
At least two of the artifacts honoring Illinois leaders in the US Capitol are replicas. There is a statue of Gen. Shields and a painting of Speaker Rainey also on display in the state capitol building in Springfield.
Two blocks due north of the Capitol Rotunda Father Coughlin points out Washington, DC's version of Union Station. The train station was designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and the Columbia Fountain in front was designed by sculptor Lorado Taft from Peoria.
Finally, the landscape plan for the grounds of the U.S. Capitol was a design by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted also designed the land plan for the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, the campus of the University of Chicago, the street plan for Riverside, Illinois (blame him if you get lost there), Central Park in New York and the campus of Stanford University in California.
So if you want to feel at home with great Illinois leaders and artists of the past, then come to Washington, DC.