WILMINGTON — As part of his dissertation research into Charles Webb Murphy, history graduate student Jason Cannon is in Murphy’s hometown this week for the centennial celebration of the theatre Murphy built.
A Texas Christian University scholar, Cannon said there have been some things written on Murphy’s career as Cubs owner when they captured four pennants. But he thinks there’s a more comprehensive story to tell about the man, thinking in part of the Murphy Theatre and its impact on Murphy’s hometown.
“When I started to think about his life in its entirety, the theatre is a large part of his story, and a large part of his impact not only socially but culturally as well, so I wanted to think through [Charles] Murphy’s impact in a more comprehensive way,” said Cannon at the News Journal offices.
He said the more he read about Murphy, there was “this colorful figure” who “leaps off the page, a real interesting guy, savvy yet quirky, just a real interesting figure.”
In a lot of ways the city of Wilmington brackets Murphy’s career in Chicago, Cannon feels.
“Charles Murphy’s life begins here. As this week demonstrates, he’s still being talked about, and the theatre kind of represents him and his legacy continuing on today,” said Cannon. “That’s got to be a part of a more comprehensive [Charles] Murphy story.”
Referring to the jobless crisis that occurred here when DHL departed, Cannon said the community has gone through a number of things, “and I think now at this point the Murphy Theatre really has an opportunity to immerse itself into the cultural life of the city once again.”
He spoke of the “wonderful refurbishment of the theatre,” Jennifer Hollon’s “great job of spearheading the history of the theatre” with her recent book, and Executive Director Maretta Alden’s work on programming.
“So it seems like there’s real momentum there. It might be one of the things for the community to focus on now,” he added.
Ever the historian, Cannon said Charles Webb Murphy is buried in Wilmington at the Sugar Grove Cemetery, section 6, next to his parents and a sister.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.