February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865
Born in a log cabin in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln received little schooling as his family moved through the wilderness, but he read and reread the Bible and the few other books he could get hold of. Growing up in southwestern Indiana, he worked on his father's farm. After moving to Illinois, he clerked in a store, studied law, served in the Black Hawk War and took part in political talk of the day.
In the rough and ready style of the frontier, "catch as catch can" wrestling was more hand-to-hand combat than sport. Lincoln, an awesome physical specimen at 6-feet-4, was widely known for his wrestling skills and had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years.
At age 19, he defended his stepbrother's river barge from Natchez thugs by throwing the hijackers overboard. Ten years later, Lincoln was a storekeeper at New Salem when his boss backed him to out-wrestle Jack Armstrong, local tough and county champion. From the start, Lincoln handed out a thrashing. When Armstrong began fouling, Lincoln picked up his opponent, dashed him to the ground and knocked him out.
After he began his practice of law, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois Legislature, then to Congress. In 1860 he was elected President. Lincoln recognized that the Union was threatened by the moral issue of slavery. The Civil War began soon after his inauguration. Lincoln met every crisis with poise and courage, and in January of 1863 issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves. He was reelected in 1864 and soon had the satisfaction of knowing that the Union had been preserved.
On April 14, at the Ford Theater, Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. The following morning, his secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton, paid Lincoln this lasting tribute:
"Now he belongs to the ages."