Thompson Campbell’s successor as Secretary of State was Horace Cooley, who spoke admiringly of his predecessor’s efforts in the State Library. Cooley himself would become one of the key figures in the early development of the Library. 1
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1806, Cooley originally studied medicine, but switched to the law and earned admission to the bar in Maine. He moved west to Illinois in 1840, first to Rushville and then to Quincy, where he quickly became an active political force. 2
In 1841, Governor Thomas Carlin appointed Cooley, an able organizer, as Quartermaster-General of the Illinois Militia. The next year, Cooley became a strong campaigner for the election of Carlin’s successor, fellow Democrat Thomas Ford. Appointed Secretary of State to succeed Campbell on Dec. 23, 1846, Cooley was in office during the 1847 Constitutional Convention, which changed the laws to require a popular vote for the office. His re-election bid was successful, and he became the last Secretary to be appointed to the office, as well as the first to be elected. 3
A strong believer in free education, Cooley was one of the earliest and strongest voices to establish a public school system in Illinois. In January 1849, in conjunction with his Secretarial duties as ex officio Superintendent of Common Schools, he called a four-day meeting on public education that helped lay the groundwork for the formation of the Illinois State Teachers Association and, later, the passage of the Free School Bill. 4
But Cooley’s health began to fail, and he traveled south in an effort to restore himself. He died in New Orleans on April 2, 1850. 5
- Reports to the Illinois General Assembly 1847, 160.
- Howlett 57, 61.
- Howlett 61-62; Moses I-510.
- Howlett 62.
- Howlett 62; Moses II-58.