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Dr. Samuel M. Blackwell, Jr.

Dr. Samuel M. Blackwell, Jr., PHD, 76, of Joliet, formerly of Arcola, died at 11:15 a.m. Thursday, December 3, 2020 at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

A Private Family Funeral Service will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, December 12, 2020 at the Arcola Presbyterian Church.  Livestream of the service will be available at   Burial will follow in the Arcola Cemetery.  Shrader Funeral Home, Arcola, is assisting the family with arrangements. A Celebration of Life Service will be held at a later date after Covid.

Dr. Blackwell was born May 3, 1944 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Samuel Moser and Bernice Cavett Blackwell, Sr.

He is survived by his life partner, Mary Jo O’Connor of Joliet; brother, Bill (Terry) Blackwell of Arcola; nephews, Austin Jered Blackwell, Jeremy Brandon (Ashley) Blackwell, Joshua Samuel Blackwell; and great nephews, William Christopher and Joshua Cavett Blackwell.  He was preceded in death by his parents, and nephew, Jordan William Blackwell.

Dr. Blackwell was a graduate of Arcola High School Class of 1962.  He received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Parsons College; earned his Masters Degree and Doctorate at Northern Illinois University.  His most recent position was American History Adjunct Professor at Northern Illinois University. He also taught at New Lenox High School, Sandwich High School, and Waubonsee College in Aurora.  He served in the Army National Guard from September, 1967-1973.

Dr. Blackwell authored the “The First Line”—a history of the Illinois 12th Calvary in the Civil War; published several articles in historical publications; reviewed articles for historical publications; and served as a panel member at history workshops and symposiums.

He spent years researching battlefields and national and various state archives, a great student of the life and teachings of President Thomas Jefferson, visiting his home and plantation on more than a dozen times.

Dr. Blackwell’s interest in history began when he was 12 years old when his grandfather took him to the battlefields at Shiloh, Tennessee. These visits helped to explain what his father (Dr. Blackwell’s great grandfather) had witnessed as he served (at 15 years old) as General Nathan Bradford Forrest’s bugler, a position he remained in for the entire Civil War. Dr. Blackwell returned to the Shiloh Battlefield many times throughout his life and was able to share these accounts of history with his students and family.

Memorials are suggested to Northern Illinois University History Department or Arcola Presbyterian Church.

Online condolences to the family may be sent to


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