DANVILLE — Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of Time magazine’s first edition cover that honored former US Speaker of the House Joseph G. Cannon.
The local Joe Cannon Vermilion Committee plans to commemorate this milestone and also hopes to unveil the new Vermilion County Administration Building as the Joseph G. Cannon Vermilion County Administration Building in honor of Cannon’s legacy.
Less than a week after a time capsule was opened following the demolition of Cannon Elementary School, State Rep. Mike Marron, Vermilion County officials and committee members Joe Cannon Vermilion held a press conference Tuesday morning announcing the local committee’s campaign to honor Cannon by naming the county administration building, 201 N. Vermilion St., after Cannon.
The committee will host an event on March 4, 2023, in recognition of Time magazine’s 100th anniversary of its first edition honoring Cannon.
Marron said “Uncle Joe” Cannon was one of the most powerful, influential, and longest-serving speakers in the United States House of Representatives in United States history.
“And he is without a doubt the most important historical figure to come from the town of Danville, Illinois,” Marron said.
“Being the home of Speaker Cannon is a source of pride for Danville and Vermilion County, and it’s something we need to celebrate,” he added.
Marron said President Cannon was responsible for bringing the federal court to Danville in 1911. He brought the VA hospital to Danville and became the second longest serving Republican congressman in history. He mastered parliamentary control of the United States House and publicly clashed with then-President Teddy Roosevelt. He also had the office building named Cannon House in Washington, D.C.
Maron said the local Joe Cannon Vermilion committee was formed to plan a celebration in Cannon’s honor next March, commemorating his appearance on the cover of the first Time magazine.
The committee includes Becky and Alan Woodrum who are involved with Lamon House and local historic preservation, Sue Richter of the Vermilion County Museum, Vermilion County Treasurer Darren Duncan who will oversee fundraising by the committee, Member of the County Council Steve Miller who started the petition campaign to get the 500 signatures needed to change the building’s name, Tim Dudley of Vermilion Advantage, local historian and retired attorney Tim Smith, local historian and clerk of the Danville Township Larry Weatherford and Dr. Carl Bridges of Danville Area Community College.
The committee is open to anyone who is passionate about the history of Cannon, Vermilion County and wants to be part of the community celebration.
Marron said they will be celebrating a monumental day in the history of Vermilion County and Danville.
The committee hopes that the highlight of the March 4 event will be a ceremony naming the Vermilion County Administration Building the Joseph G. Cannon Vermilion County Administration Building.
Petitions with 500 signatures will be presented to the county council for consideration for approval of the name change request. Marron said they have the support of County Council Chairman Larry Baughn.
A website to help with the petition effort has been launched called joecannonvermilion.com. People can sign an electronic petition on the website.
In addition to the building’s naming ceremony next year, the committee is working with the Vermilion County Museum on educational Cannon exhibits that will be on display.
Cannon instructional manuals will also be distributed to local schools.
“Joseph G. Cannon was a larger-than-life figure who had an enormous impact on the history of our nation, the history of the United States, and we were honored that he claimed Danville, Illinois, like his house,” Marron said. “He had quite a legacy.”
Smith said Cannon reflected on his historical legacy when he commented in 1922, “100 years from now people will say ‘looks like there was a man from Illinois by the name of Cannon, but I don’t know much- thing about him.’ ”
Vermilion County Council has an opportunity to refresh its constituents’ memory of Cannon’s identity by naming the county administration building in his honor. It would also be appropriate for the building to be in Danville thanks to Cannon’s efforts, Smith said.
Smith added that Cannon had become one of the top three leaders of Congress and that the national press liked to name the leaders. They thought Cannon looked like Uncle Sam and started calling him Uncle Joe Cannon in the papers.
Duncan said, “Joe Cannon chose Danville and Vermilion County to be his home, and he brought an unparalleled passion for the people of this community that lives on today through the many buildings and organizations he has. helped create or support. Often, over time and across generations, we tend to forget the incredible stories and people whose contributions are so precious to us even today. I am thrilled to be part of this group that is committed to ensuring that the next generation of Vermilion County will know and also be inspired by the countless hours and dedication of one of these individuals in the area he called his house.
Cannon moved to Danville in 1876. He died at his home, 418 N. Vermilion St., in 1926 at age 90, and is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery. Directly across from the County Administration Building and the Fischer Theater is a Walldogs mural by Cannon and his March 3, 1923, Time magazine cover.
Cannon served 46 years as a Vermilion County congressman from 1872 to 1923. He served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1903 to 1911.
During his tenure in Congress, he founded the Soldiers Home on East Main Street in Danville, which was later renamed the Veteran’s Administration Hospital.
Cannon also brought the Federal Courts to Danville and the Old Federal Courthouse which opened in 1911 along with a new post office for Danville. Today, the building houses many county administration offices.
The first congressional office building constructed in Washington, D.C. adjacent to the Capitol was named the Cannon Office Building in Cannon’s honor.
The committee is also looking for someone who has a copy of the first Time magazine with Cannon on it.
Another effort by Marron and State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) passed last year to designate part of Illinois Route 1 in Danville as President Joe Cannon’s Memorial Highway.
Marron said they also hope to have an Illinois Department of Transportation nominating ceremony next year.