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Bicentennial: Lincoln's Tomb

Students visiting Oak Ridge Cemetery, in Springfield, Illinois, rub the nose of the bust of Abraham Lincoln on Feb. 12, 2009, the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.

Illinois is definitely the Land of Lincoln. Voters in the Illinois Top 200 project have selected Abraham Lincoln as the top leader in state history, recognizing his role in ending slavery and holding America together despite the Civil War.

He was followed by three other presidents from Illinois: Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Ulysses S. Grant.

"The four presidents with Illinois roots came from different walks of life, faced different challenges and followed different political philosophies. But all of them were important figures in American history, and I'm glad to see them recognized by the people taking part in the Illinois Top 200 project," said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

He noted that the museum is now offering a special exhibit on these four men, called "From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama."

The Top 200 project lets Illinoisans vote every two weeks on the state's most inspiring leaders, greatest inventions, top businesses and much more. By the state's bicentennial on Dec. 3, voters will have chosen 10 favorites in 20 different categories -- the Illinois Top 200.

Voting in the final category, unforgettable moments, is underway at www.IllinoisTop200.com. Nominees include Lincoln's funeral, the 2016 Cubs World Series victory, Illinois voters rejecting slavery and the start of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Here are the 10 top leaders chosen in online voting:

--Abraham Lincoln: A successful lawyer in Springfield, Lincoln rose to national prominence as a critic of slavery. As president, he guided a divided America through the Civil War, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and passed a constitutional amendment ending slavery.

--Ronald Reagan: The only president born in Illinois, Reagan sought to cut spending, social services and taxes. He was a firm opponent of the Soviets during the final years of the Cold War but also negotiated arms control agreements with them.

--Barack Obama: Taking office after a devastating economic downturn, Obama oversaw initiatives to save financial institutions and the auto industry. He passed a major expansion in access to health care. He was the nation's first African-American president.

--Ulysses S. Grant: He moved to Illinois to start over after a series of failures in life. When the Civil War broke out, he organized Illinois troops, proved himself an excellent commander and rose to oversee the entire Union army. He served two terms as president.

--Jane Addams: She was a pioneering social worker and advocate for women's rights. She co-founded Chicago's Hull House and helped establish the ACLU. She was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

--Black Hawk: The Sauk warrior fought American expansion into Illinois territory in the War of 1812 and the brief "Black Hawk War" of 1832. He was not a chief, but people followed him because of his bravery and leadership skills. He produced America's first autobiography by a Native American.

--Ida B. Wells: Born into slavery, Wells devoted her life to fighting discrimination against African-Americans and women. She helped call attention to the nation's epidemic of lynching and was a co-founder of the NAACP.

--Adlai Stevenson II: As Illinois governor, Stevenson fought crime and government corruption. He ran for president twice. He was ambassador to the United Nations during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

--Mother Jones: After losing her family and her business, Mary Harris Jones became a union organizer. Her ability to motivate workers led opponents to call her the "most dangerous woman in America."

--Hillary Clinton: She was the first woman nominated for president by a major political party. Born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge, she also served as secretary of state, senator and first lady.

The Illinois Top 200 is a joint initiative of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, The State Journal-Register and the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.

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