Police found a teen-age boy in the early morning hours of October 11, 1945, in Jacksonville, Illinois. Unable to communicate, the deaf and mute teenager was labeled "feeble minded" and sentenced by a judge to the Lincoln State School and Colony in Jacksonville.
He remained in the Illinois mental health care system for over thirty years. Deaf, mute, and later blind, the young black man survived beatings, hunger, overcrowding, and the dehumanizing treatment that characterized state institutions through the 1950s. In spite of his environment, he made friends, took on responsibilities, and developed a sense of humor. People who knew him found him remarkable. He had a straw hat he loved to wear, and carried a backpack with his collection of rings, glasses, and silverware with him everywhere.
Possible hints to his identity include his 'scrawling "Lewis"' and his 'pantomimed, wild accounts of foot-stomping jazz bars and circus parades.'
He died after having a stroke at the Sharon Oaks Nursing Home in Peoria on November 28, 1993. Officials believe he was around 64 years old at the time.
After reading a story about him in the New York Times, acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote and recorded "John Doe No. 24" and purchased a headstone for his unmarked grave. Award-winning journalist Dave Bakke wrote God Knows His Name: The True Story of John Doe No. 24.
A book was written about this deaf #JohnDoe who wrote the name "LEWIS", but was never claimed by any family or friends! #ILLINOIS 1993
In spite of his institutionalized environment, he made friends, took on responsibilities, and developed a sense of humor. People who knew him found him remarkable. He had a straw hat he loved to wear, and carried a backpack with his collection of...
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