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Clark Robinson Griggs was a member of the Illinois House of Representatives and mayor of Urbana, Illinois. Griggs previously served two terms in the Massachusetts legislature before moving to Champaign County, Illinois in 1859. He also enlisted and served as a sutler in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Griggs was extremely influential in the decision to locate the Illinois Industrial University, which would later become the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana. He started with $40,000 appropriated by the Supervisors of Champaign and Urbana Townships and traveled throughout Illinois meeting with elected officials. In a period of five weeks, he had met with 40 Members of the Illinois House, 15 of which pledged their support. Griggs then met with the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the Chairmen of the state Democratic and Republican parties. For a period of 3 months after the General Assembly went into session in 1867 Griggs maintained a reception room and suite of parlors and bedrooms at the Leland Hotel in Springfield, where legislators and their constituents were entertained with drinks, light refreshments, or dinners of oyster or quail. Legislators were also supplied with cigars and theater tickets. Griggs further arranged for a special train to take legislators to Champaign-Urbana late in the session. He then ran for Speaker; and after a two day period of repeated voting, he agreed to drop out of the race in exchange for the Chairmanship of the Committee on Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, the committee that would hear all bills regarding the location of the university, and the right to choose the committee's members. Griggs called the committee to order several times, while privately telling the members not to attend; and when asked why legislation regarding the location of the university was not being heard in the committee, Griggs replied that he had called the committee to order but had been unable to achieve a quorum. Legislation eventually reached the House floor naming Champaign as the site of the new university. Separate motions were made to amend the bill, the first substituting Jacksonville, the second Normal, and the third Lincoln. (Illinois State Normal University, which was nationally admired and would later become Illinois State University, had already been established in Normal 10 years prior—in 1857.) All three motions to amend failed, the measure was approved by the House and Senate; and Governor Richard James Oglesby signed the bill into law three days later.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign