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Statue will honor judge, former state’s attorney

Judge Bauer (Submitted photo)

Judge Bauer (Submitted photo)

For more than a half-century, federal appeals-court judge William J. Bauer has been a leader in the legal community both in DuPage County and beyond. The nearly lifelong Elmhurst resident and native served as an assistant state’s attorney and then as state’s attorney in DuPage, and then he was a DuPage circuit judge before becoming a federal prosecutor, a federal trial-court judge and finally, a U.S. appeals-court judge.

Now, a wide range of DuPage leaders past and present and a host of other dignitaries are set to honor Bauer, 85, with a statue at a ceremony at 10 a.m. on Oct. 20 outside the DuPage County courthouse annex building in Wheaton, which the DuPage County Board renamed after Bauer late last year. Since that time, a private group seeking to honor Bauer has raised nearly $50,000 to pay for a statue of the judge that will be unveiled that day.

Originally named DuPage County Judicial Office Facility Annex, 503 N. County Farm Road, was completed in 2004 and was aimed at easing overcrowding in the courthouse. County officials moved the offices of the state’s attorney, the public defender and the Probation Department to the annex. The idea to give the building its new moniker — the William J. Bauer Judicial Office Facility Annex – was the brainchild of retired DuPage County Circuit Judge Edward R. “Ted” Duncan, a Glen Ellyn resident who is back in private practice. He proposed the idea to then-DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom, who won County Board support for the proposal before stepping down from the board last year.

Schillerstrom also is heading an informal committee that has spent the last year raising money to pay for the statue of Bauer. Other committee members include retired Illinois Supreme Court Justice S. Louis Rathje, financial-services executive and former DuPage Water Commission Chairman Joel Herter and Mark Wight, the chairman and CEO of Downers Grove architectural firm Wight & Company.

“We all have one thing in common: a great respect and admiration for Bill Bauer,” Schillerstrom said. “He’s been a leader in the legal community since the 1950s when he was state’s attorney. In the federal courts, they call him the ‘Sage of DuPage,’ and he is just a person that has contributed so much to the law, the legal community and to the community in general. We thought it would be very appropriate to honor him.”

Schillerstrom noted that as County Board chairman, he also spearheaded naming the county’s administration building after County Board Chairman Jack Knuepfer, and he also promoted naming the actual courthouse itself after the late U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde.

“Our game plan is that we’ll dedicate the statue that will be erected and there will be inscriptions at the base of the statue. We’ll also have some information inside the building as well, explaining why Bill’s so important, although that won’t be done by the dedication,” Schillerstrom said. “These buildings are going to stand for 100 years or more, and we want something inside that will tell of Bill’s accomplishments, much like we did for Jack.”

Former Gov. James R. Thompson, who as a U.S. Attorney in the 1970s was a protégé of Bauer’s, is expected to speak at the ceremony on Oct. 20, Duncan said. The committee also is inviting all federal judges in Chicago and all Illinois Supreme Court justices, he said.

Wight was responsible for tapping the same sculptor who had created the bust of Knuepfer that sits inside the county’s administration building, Duncan said.

“The sculpture is being completed as we speak,” he said.

At the bottom of the sculpture, Duncan said, the inscription will read: “Bill Bauer is one of DuPage County’s greatest sons. His legal and judicial accomplishments are equaled only by his countless acts of kindness.”

Duncan noted that among Bauer’s legacies as a local and federal prosecutor was identifying talented professionals.

Meanwhile, Herter pointed to Bauer’s many achievements in the community outside of the law, including his service on the Elmhurst College board and on the Elmhurst Memorial Hospital board. Herter also noted that Bauer had been his business law professor while Herter was a student at Elmhurst College in the late 1950s.

“Having served with him on both boards over the years, there is nobody more dedicated and knowledgeable in the areas of law when we need expertise,” Herter said. “I have more respect for him than I can say.”

Retired DuPage County finance director George Kouba, who serves on the hospital board with Bauer, called him “a pillar of the community in DuPage County.”

“I don’t think there’s a better person to name a building after,” Kouba said. “He’s one of the straight-arrow guys. I really think that when you want to get something squared away from a legal standpoint, he’s spot-on on everything.”

Bauer has received other recent accolades as well. College of DuPage recently announced that it has named the mock courtroom in the school’s new Homeland Security Education Center after him.

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