Judge James L. (Jamie) Cotton Jr. is pictured with his new book, released Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. (Independent Herald photo/Ben Garrett)
Judge James L. (Jamie) Cotton Jr. is pictured with his new book, released Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. (Independent Herald photo/Ben Garrett)

 

To fully understand “The Greatest Speech Ever,” Judge Jamie Cotton’s thorough examination of the Gettysburg Address and President Abraham Lincoln, you have to go all the way back to Cotton’s grade school days at Oneida Elementary School.

There, young James L. Cotton Jr., who would go on to serve 23 years (and counting) as Scott County’s General Sessions Judge, “butchered” — in his own words — a Gettysburg Address speech.

“I left a couple of words out, butchered a couple of others,” Cotton said. “I folded up like a lawn chair.”

The results of that speech in a classroom long since razed by demolition crews weren’t what was important. What was important was the impression the subject matter made on Cotton.

“Even though I didn’t fully understand the words, they mesmerized me,” he said. “They made a permanent imprint on me, and I became a fan of Lincoln at that time.”

Considering that, and considering Cotton’s hobby (he’s a history buff) and his academic background (he was a political science history major as an undergrad), it’s no surprise that he authored what is likely one of the first books to closely examine how Lincoln’s experiences and ideologies led to the Gettysburg address.

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Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com. Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.