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Sen. Dirksen at 1969 Illinois State Society Gala

Sen. Dirksen at 1969 Illinois State Society Gala

According to the Washington Star for Jan. 20, 1969, more than 1,000 members and guests of the Illinois State Society gathered at the Gramercy Inn for a party to celebrate the Inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon.

Enjoying the party are from left to right, former Illinois State Society President Helen Lewis of Macomb, a board member for more than 50 years, and U.S. Senator Everett M. Dirksen at the podium. Mrs. Luella Dirksen and U.S. Senator Charles H. Percy are in the rear at right.

The Star article says that Dirksen "told the group that he is fearful that an Illinois Oak Tree, which the society expects to plant in his honor on the lawn of the Capitol, will not grow in the Washington area. 'I suggest that you might want to plant some other variety--possibly a Marigold Tree,' the senator deadpanned."

"His audience greeted his proposal with shouts of laughter, recalling Dirksen's long efforts to promote the Marigold as the national flower."

On the next day, Inauguration Day, Senate Minority Leader Dirksen was given an honor that no other U.S. Senator had ever been given. He rode from the White House to the Capitol with President Johnson and President Nixon on the way to the Presidential Oath of Office ceremony. In the fall of that year, Senator Dirksen passed away.

For the record, the Dirksen Oak Tree planted by the Illinois State Society on the Capitol lawn in 1969 was still growing strong 31 years later at the start of a new century, and one of three Senate office buildings on the Hill is now called the Dirksen Building.

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