Come join historic celebration in Illinois


Sculptor Zenos Frudakis with the Ingersoll statue, before and after restoration

An eminent Illinois freethinker is being restored to his rightful place in the sun, and everyone is invited.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is delighted to announce the rededication of a historic statue in Peoria to America’s most famous “infidel,” Robert Green Ingersoll. The Peoria Park District will hold the ceremony in Glen Oak Park, Peoria, Ill., on Ingersoll’s birthday, Aug. 11, at 10:30 a.m., and it is open to everybody. The plaque on the new base will cite Ingersoll’s famous lines: 

“Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.”

Private donations have paid all the costs to renovate the 1911 statue that is owned by the city of Peoria. FFRF raised the money with the help of 238 generous donors from 43 states plus Puerto Rico and Canada.

FFRF is sponsoring a dinner party for Ingersoll friends and aficionados in Peoria the night before the rededication, on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Speakers will include descendants Jeff Ingersoll, who directs the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee, and R.E. (“Elliott”) Ingersoll, a professor of counseling psychology and faculty member at Cleveland State University who has been featured on TED Talks and is a musician. He’ll provide the entertainment, along with FFRF Co-President Dan Barker, who has put to music several memorable Ingersoll poems and orations, including the song, “The Time to be Happy.”

Also briefly speaking will be Center for Inquiry’s Tom Flynn, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor and Margaret Downey, with the Memorial Committee. Attendees include Ingersoll enthusiasts as far away as Florida. Learn more or sign up here

Please RSVP by Monday, Aug. 8, if you’d like to attend the celebrations. Check out some area hotels here

Ingersoll, a Civil War colonel and attorney who served as Illinois’ attorney general, was thrust into national fame in the political field, then as an eloquent orator and fearless freethought advocate. In an era without sound amplification, Ingersoll could attract crowds as large as 10,000 and commanded major speaking fees. Friend to four presidents, he was a rising political star, until he began lecturing as a nonbeliever. He has been dubbed Peoria’s “most famous citizen.”

Ingersoll was born in Dresden, N.Y., in 1833, and launched his career in Peoria, where he met his wife, Eva, whom he praised as “a woman without superstition.” Eventually, Ingersoll moved to Washington, D.C., New York City and a mansion in upstate New York. Many biographies memorialize Ingersoll, including Professor Orvin Larson’s work, “American Infidel,” reprinted by FFRF. 

“We hope to seed statues in the other cities Ingersoll lived in,” says FFRF’s Gaylor.

FFRF thanks all of the donors, including 16 who contributed $1,000 and whose names will appear on the new base of the statue. It is also grateful to Peoria Humanist Society’s Ken Hofbauer, who brought the statue’s condition to the city and FFRF’s attention, Jeff Ingersoll of the Memorial Committee who helped fundraise and work with the Peoria Park District, and Zenos Frudakis, a sculptor who helped arrange the foundry work at Laran Bronze, Philadelphia. (Frudakis is pictured with the before and after photos above.)

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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