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William L. Rutherford, Class of '32

A Philanthropist who gave us more than we realize!

Bill Rutherford 32
Bill Rutherford '32.jpg

This article above was submitted by William L Rutherford, '32, for the All-School Reunion back in 1996. He was a 1932 Peoria High graduate that took on projects some of us would never have dreamed of. I enjoyed his description of "Nick Paradise". This establishment was a hangout for many PHS students. The "slot machine" assembly was done at a time when illegal gambling was infecting many parts of our nation and many were losing what little they had during the Great Depression. But after his PHS days, he went on to serve his country as an assistant to the Secretary of War and become a tremendous builder of our community. Many things still are in existence today. The General Wayne A Downing International Airport is just one of those endeavors he helped accomplished. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Bill Rutherford several years before he passed. We talked aviation quite a bit. You would always learn something from Bill. He told me that after World War 2 that he flew a surplus B-25 "Mitchell' Bomber off a runway that was located along the banks of the Illinois River behind the old LeTourneau Manufacturing Plant (Later WABCO and Komatsu-Dresser) delivering it to a school somewhere in the Midwest for Technical Training. Anybody have any pictures of that runway? I've also attached a few other articles about this generous PHS graduate. Take a look. Enjoy.

Bill Robertson, '78

From PHS Alumnus William L. Rutherford's Obituary:


A founding member of the Forest Park Foundation, he and his wife Hazel directed foundation activities creating Wildlife Prairie Park, which opened to the public in fall 1978. The foundation deeded the park to the state of Illinois, which changed the name in 2000 to the Hazel and Bill Rutherford Wildlife Prairie State Park.


He graduated from Bradley University in 1934 and received his law degree in 1937 from the University of Chicago. He attended Columbia University in New York City for graduate work in taxation.


During World War II, he served as consultant to the Secretary of War in Washington, D.C., advising on steel production and allocation. Returning to Peoria after the war, he practiced law in association with several different attorneys, eventually in affiliation with James M. Tomlin. He continued to practice law and continued to work at Forest Park Foundation/Wildlife Prairie State Park until early this year.


Over the course of his life, he and his wife Hazel were instrumental in the purchase of more than 600,000 acres of land throughout the world, which was then turned over to parks and public bodies. He served on White House Commissions on Aging, served several Illinois governors as a member of the Board of Vocational Education, the Illinois Public Aid Commission and as director of the Illinois Department of Conservation, from which position he negotiated the transfer of the Hennepin Canal and Goose Lake Prairie properties to the state as recreational and preservation resources.


He represented the Greater Peoria Airport Authority during its formation and for several years thereafter, advocating the development of the new Mount Hawley Airport among other improvements. He headed Forest Park Foundation from its inception in 1939 until the spring of this year, founded the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, facilitated the expansion and building of hospitals and health facilities, housing for the elderly, Safety Town young drivers education facility, the Rock Island Trail, the Observation Tower (and woodpecker) in Peoria Heights, and innumerable other Peoria-centered projects. Though well-traveled, Peoria remained the center of his world.



Bill Rutherford 1914-2006

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