Jed Magee to share Lincoln collection, speak about the man

Jed Magee
Jed Magee

Magee’s personal Lincoln collection to reside at Historical Museum

Jed Magee, a former Jefferson attorney and Iowa District Court judge, will formally donate his lifetime collection of memorabilia, books and art about President Abraham Lincoln to the Greene County Historical Society this Sunday, April 10, in a 2 pm program at the museum in Jefferson.

Magee, who now lives in Charles City, will speak about the life, career and legacy of the former president. The program is free and open to the public, with refreshments and conversation afterward.

For most of his career, Magee kept his collection in his office in Charles City. It included 10 shelves full of books about Lincoln, 30 busts of Lincoln at different stages of his life, photographs (including two that are more than 100 years old), prints, paintings, and more.

As full retirement last July was approaching, he decided it was time to decide what was to become of his Lincoln collection. “I really wanted to find some way it could all be kept in one place,” he said. “And I wanted it to be in a place where people could access to the books, so they could read and use them.”

He thought of the Greene County Historical Museum being located on the historic Lincoln Highway in Jefferson, liked that tie to Lincoln, and so contacted the Historical Society about making the donation. Then-president Ces Brunow and executive director Roger Aegerter shared Magee’s idea with the board of directors, who gave quick approval to accepting the collection.

Magee and Aegerter agreed on a date for the transfer, and Aegerter drove to Charles City and picked it all up after it had been carefully packed. It took 41 boxes to hold all the books from the 10 shelves where Magee had them.

Magee is a native of Dunkerton in the Waterloo area, and after high school attended the University of Iowa both for his undergraduate studies and law school. He then settled in Jefferson where he joined the late Francis Cudahy in a law practice. “He was like a father to me,” Magee says of Cudahy.

Magee practiced law here 25 years, officing in a building he owned, the same one where Guy Richardson’s abstracting office is now located. Magee was very active in the community, serving as city attorney, a member of the Jaycees and the Arts Council. He helped start the Greene County Community Players theatrical group, acted in several plays and directed others.

He left Jefferson in 1992 when he was appointed juvenile court referee for that district east of Mason City. Magee served 17 years as a juvenile court judge, retiring in 2008 but then taking “senior status” with the court and working part-time, until fully retiring last summer.

He and his wife Betty still live in Charles City, although they also spend January and February in Texas. While they were in Jefferson, Betty worked at the high school, then at American Athletic and ultimately opened “Betty’s Gifts,” which she sold to Jean and Don Feldmann.

Jed Magee’s fascination with Abraham Lincoln began when his seventh grade teacher Mrs Beam realized he needed more of an academic challenge, as his school studies were too easy for him. So she told him to pick out some public figure that he might enjoy doing some research about, he read a book about Lincoln. “She bought me my first scrapbook, for $1.29, and I started cutting out articles I found about Lincoln,” Magee said. “I kept that up and by the time I was finishing high school, I had that scrapbook pretty well filled.” He continued collecting Lincoln stories and memorabilia during his college years. And he never really stopped.

“About half of what I have has been given to me over the years by clients or friends who know of my interest in Lincoln and had some book or picture they’d bring to me,” Magee said.

He has always enjoyed showing the collection. “Here in Jefferson and then later in Charles City, about every year I’d have the third or fourth graders visit my office and I’d do a conversation with them about Lincoln while I showed them the collection,” he said. “I’ll never forget one fourth grader in Charles City who said, ‘I just have one question – who’s going to get all this stuff when you die?’”

It now has a home in the Historical Society museum, where much of it is on display in the glass cases along the east wall of the museum’s main room.

In his program at the museum, Magee will talk some about the collection but more about Lincoln in general.

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