Two-hundred-fifty people were on hand at the Moose Hall, in 1970, to honor Burke as “Mr. Democrat,” and both Democrats and Republicans were proud to support him. At his 1972 funeral, Lauren Ashley Smith gave the eulogy and Jasper Morgan sang.
It’s said that Eugene Burke’s retentive memory was such that he was credited with possession of more knowledge about Clinton than any person before or since. At the special evening honoring him, Representative John Culver said, “Our system of government couldn’t survive without the likes of Gene Burke and George Pillers, who devote their talents and energies on its behalf.” Republican George Pillers was also present in the hall, adding much to Clinton’s healthy solidarity of purpose.
In his article covering the event for the Clinton Herald, acclaimed reporter Lee White mentions many of the famous people from near and far who helped celebrate the occasion --- including Senator Edward Kennedy; E.C. Halbach (’91); Judge Merritt Sutton (’24); Everett Streit; and Ray Walton, candidate for State Attorney General. Clinton Mayor Ed Obermiller was there to present Burke with a certificate of appreciation and an official proclamation of “Eugene T. Burke Recognition Day.”
Another famous lawyer was Frank Ellis (an 1888 law graduate), who bought the first set of golf clubs in Clinton around the turn of the century and, in 1898, he built the beautiful home on 6th Avenue South, across from DeWitt Park, which later became the American Legion. In 1934, he built a wonderful house at 960 No. 4th Street, and he was living there when he died in 1949. He had been born in Clinton in 1865, and once he graduated from law school, he returned to become the dean of Clinton attorneys by the 40’s.
Good works were standard fare for attorneys. One effort was that of north-end lawyers, collecting contributions for the Lyons Young Men’s Christian Association. They watched over that fund for many decades. Finally, Paul Holleran and Albert Buechner transferred their funds by using cypres… a state statute which allows transfer of a defunct charitable organization’s money to a like organization. The money was thus contributed to the Public Library before they died, and a Lyons Branch was built with the proceeds. Lawyers were frequently the instruments of such transactions over the years. Buechner was the last to survive and he died at 88 years of age, in 1974.