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Stevens T. Mason to lie in state under the dome

Stevens T. Mason
Stevens T. Mason

By Gretchen Millich, WKAR News

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wkar/local-wkar-930047.mp3

LANSING, MI – For decades, little attention was paid to Michigan's first governor. This summer, Detroit officials remodeling a downtown park dug up the remains of Stevens T. Mason. They plan to move his body to a new plot. But before that happens, Mason will lie in state at the Capitol in Lansing.
WKAR's Gretchen Millich has our story.

AUDIO:

Gretchen Millich: Next Tuesday on October 26, the body of Stevens T. Mason, the first governor of Michigan, will be lying in state at the Capitol. He was known as the "Boy Governor." I'm here at the Capitol in the Rotunda with Matt Van Acker, who is director of the State Capitol Tour Service and Barb Thumudo, who is a tour guide at the Capitol. Matt, tell me a little bit about Stevens T. Mason. How did he become governor of Michigan at such a young age?

Matt Van Acker: Mason was a very incredible individual. He came from aristocracy in the state of Virginia. His father, John Mason, was appointed by President Andrew Jackson as the Secretary of the Michigan Territory. Young Stevens T. Mason worked with his father and when his father took another position, Mason was sort of a natural pick to take over. At the age of 19, Mason became the Secretary of the Michigan Territory and then in 1835, was elected as the first governor of Michigan at the age of 24. He ushered the state into statehood. Mason was a very big proponent of canals and railroads to try to encourage people to come to the young state of Michigan.

Millich: Barb, you've been doing some research into this. Why after all this time is the body of Stevens T. Mason going to be lying in state at the Capitol?

Barb Thumudo: It was decided in 1905 to bring Mason from New York, where he had died, home to Michigan. He was buried in the foundations of our first Capitol in Detroit. In 1955, they decided to add a bus terminal to the park and at that point, Stevens T. Mason was moved again into the other end of the park, and we've decided to move him again because the park's being renovated. So in July he was disinterred. He's been held at a funeral home during this process and we thought before the ceremonies to put him back, we'd bring him here to the Capitol to lie in state.

Millich: Matt, back to you. When the body of Stevens T. Mason is here, it's going to be open to the public. What will people see when they come to the Capitol?

Van Acker: This is actually an incredible experience we think for the citizens of the state to become a part of state history. Monday evening, a full military casket guard from the National Guard will be bringing his body up to the first floor Rotunda of the Capitol. On Tuesday, from 8:00 to 5:00, we'll have public viewing. Then Wednesday morning, the same National Guard casket escort will accompany his remains back to Detroit where he will be re-interred.

Millich: Why do this? Why bring the body of a former governor after all this time?

Van Acker: We see this as an opportunity both to have the people of the state pay their respects to the first governor of Michigan who was so influential in the founding of our state, but also, personally, I see it as a way of righting some past injustices. He was blamed for a fair number of the problems that the state was encountering after his terms of office. Really, he was kind of maligned in the press for his association with some of these things. He was even accused of bribery at one point. None of these accusations were accurate or true. He really moved back to New York sort of in disgrace. We just see it as a way of righting some past injustices for the governor. And it's an incredible for the people of the state to pay their respects and actually be a part of Michigan history.

Millich: Matt Van Acker, who is director of the State Capitol Tour Service and Barb Thumudo, who is a tour guide at the Capitol. Next week the body of Michigan's first governor, Stevens T. Mason, will be lying in state at the Capitol in Lansing. For 90.5 WKAR, this is Gretchen Millich.

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