June 23 , 2017
Illinois has nearly 500 historical markers across the state. The latest one was dedicated on June 19, 2017, at the Scott Bibb Community Center in Alton, Illinois. The marker recognizes the efforts of Scott Bibb, an African American fireman at the Alton Glass Works factory who attempted to send his children to newly segregated schools in 1897. After seven trials and five appeals, Bibb finally won his case in 1908, but the school officials in Alton narrowly interpreted the Supreme Court ruling to apply only to his two oldest children, who had reached the age of majority by that time. Scott Bibb’s cases were featured in the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission’s History on Trial series.
Building on the success of the History on Trial: Alton School Cases events, Lewis and Clark Community College and Dr. Shirley Portwood petitioned the Illinois State Historical Society for a historical marker to commemorate Bibb’s efforts to educate his children in desegregated schools. Since 1930s, the Society has coordinated the statewide placement and management of historical markers. Lewis and Clark Community College was a co-sponsor of the Alton School Cases events, Dr. Portwood is an emeritus professor from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville who has authored articles on the Bibb cases.
The dedication ceremony featured remarks by Lewis and Clark Community College President Dale Chapman, Dr. Portwood, Lewis and Clark Community College Vice President of Academic Affairs Linda Chapman, Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman, Alton Mayor Brant Walker, and Illinois State Historical Society Vice President Stu Fliege. The Commission was represented by Justice Garman, Justice Anne Burke, Executive Director John Lupton, and Commission Advisory Committee members Hon. Neil Cohen and Scott Szala.
President Chapman and Vice President Chapman led the Commission representatives on a tour of the College’s National Great Rivers Research and Education Center and of the Scott Bibb Community Center. The delegation learned of the work of the Scott Bibb Center in educating troubled youths to gain their GEDs and to acquire appropriate job skills to enter the workforce and reestablish their lives. The work of the Scott Bibb Center reflects perfectly the efforts of Scott Bibb to make his community a better place.