LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Consider the history of Lewis Cass

I am addressing this to the superintendent as well as the Lewis Cass Board of Education as “food for thought.” I have a keen interest in our education system, having served four years on the Dowagiac School Board and as president. I also served on your Vo-Tech, or what is now called Career-Tech Advisory Board for almost 30 years. I am quite familiar with the operation of the district. I also have prior experience as a professor at Port Huron Community College and upon retirement in keeping with my interest, became a certified substitute teacher in the district.

This concerns the possible name change for the Lewis Cass Intermediate School. It would be shameful to make this change in light of arguable claims that disregard the significant history of Lewis Cass and his contribution to our area (which includes our educational system). One cannot overlook his character and historical contributions; he has not been fairly represented by recent accusations.

Who was he? Lewis Cass was the territorial governor of Michigan in 1813, a senator from Michigan and served in the cabinet of two presidents, was Secretary of State and was nominated for president in 1848, (losing to Zachary Taylor). He promoted universal education and the establishment of libraries. It must be noted that he did not take land from Native Americans but successfully negotiated treaties with them after he became governor in 1813. History shows that he studied Native American languages and supported scholarly work on Native American culture. Clearly he was a supporter of Native Americans. He was not in favor of slavery but supported the rights of states to make their own decisions. I searched and have not found any historical reference that he ever owned a slave.

Michigan, Cass County, Dowagiac and Dowagiac schools were aided by the successful efforts of Lewis Cass toward education, libraries and schooling of children. Succumbing to unfounded claims to simply vilify an important founder of our state and city and overlooking his real history would be disingenuous.

Dick Judd

Dowagiac

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