One of Charleston’s most distinguished natives will be honored with an exhibit and lecture series, “Tilford E. Dudley: A Man of Conviction,” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Dudley – a graduate of Eastern State High School (now Eastern Illinois University) and law school at Harvard University – served as a member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal administration and became an influential labor lawyer.
In 1982, Dudley donated his parents’ home, 895 Seventh St., Charleston, to the Coles County Historical Society, which has teamed up with EIU’s historical administration program to present these events.
The exhibit opens Sunday, Oct. 14, in the Dudley House. Weekly lectures will be held at the Dudley House, starting Sunday, Oct. 14:
-- “Tilford's Time in Charleston” (2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14), will be presented by EIU graduate students Sarah Elm and Angela Drews, who will discuss what it was like to grow up and go to school in Charleston at the turn of the century. Being the son of two prominent members of the community, Dudley had a well-rounded view of Charleston that focused on education and community involvement. Elm and Drews will also discuss the circumstances that led him to become a "man of causes" who sometimes opposed the conservative ideals of his childhood community.
-- “The Dudley Family and Charleston during World War I” (2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21), will begin with a look at Charleston's response to World War I, centered largely on the Dudley family's experiences. EIU graduate student Laurie Stein will trace Gerald Dudley's military service as a doctor and will also recount memories of the home front from Tilford Dudley, his sisters, and other neighborhood children. Then, in "Sickness in War: An International Shared Experience," EIU graduate student Alisha Goode will tell the story of the 1918-1920 influenza epidemic in Charleston and its global context. While WWI was dividing the world, the epidemic provided a globally shared challenge. Goode will share background information on the epidemic's history, expressing its international nature, and will then share regional stories from Chicago, Champaign, Charleston, and ultimately the Dudley story.
-- “A Career of Causes” (2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28), will be presented by EIU graduate students Catherine Carmen and Tiffany Taylor. They will share how Dudley made doing "what is right" his vocation, from his early years as a lawyer in Illinois to his work on the National Labor Relations Board and other government positions held throughout the New Deal years. Some of the most important legal cases of which he was a part will also be discussed. In addition, they will address his work with the AFL-CIO, lobbying for the United Church of Christ, service in the NAACP, and creation of the Dudley Foundation, focusing on how these efforts tied into his beliefs in justice for laborers, peace, civil rights, and population control.
After graduating from high school in 1924, Dudley went on to Wesleyan University, where he graduated cum laude in 1928. Three years later, he earned a law degree from Harvard University.
He was a lawyer for three years in Aurora before moving to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Federal Relief Administration, the Suburban Resettlement Program, the National Labor Relations Board and the War Labor Board. In 1944, he moved out of his governmental posts to work for the United Packinghouse Workers and, later, the Committee of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He eventually became the director of the AFL-CIO Speakers Bureau.
Dudley spent his career fighting for civil rights, economic justice and similar causes. He married Martha Ward, and the couple had three children: Donica, Gerric and Martha.
EIU graduate students Daniel Grzesiak, Alyson Mazzone, and Kristen Lundquist have been working with professors Debra A. Reid and Terry A. Barnhart to produce the exhibit.
Those taking part in interviews and helping the class to gather information about the Dudley family included Mary Jane Coartney, Dorothy Lanphier, Harold Marker, Sally Boyer Smith, Bob Henning, John Faust and Gerric “Rick” Dudley.
For more information, please call 217-581-7272.