The thousands of students who have attended McClure Junior High School … as well as parents who have attended school functions… have seen the plaque that honors E. P. McClure, a former President of the School Board, for whom the school was named. But, few know why he was so honored.
Elmer Perry McClure was born in 1867 in Assumption, Illinois, the son of a successful farmer. But, unlike most farm boys of that era, Elmer attended college, graduating from Oberlin in 1895. He soon married and moved to Chicago, where he opened a drug store in 1895. In 1904, the couple moved to Western Springs, building a home at 4306 Central.
During this time, he and a business partner concluded that a new metal could be the basis for a successful business venture. So, they formed the Aluminum Products Company, which manufactured kitchen cookware. As time went on, the company expanded from just one factory in LaGrange Park to three, the others being in Lemont, Illinois and Oakland, California. And, by all accounts, McClure was extremely successful.
In 1915, he purchased and remodeled a home at 4318 Grand from his widowed mother. See second photo.
Despite the challenges of operating three manufacturing plants in diverse locations, as well as helping raise two children, McClure was asked in 1919 to serve as the unpaid President of our village’s Board of Education. After completing his first term, he was repeatedly asked to stay on the Board, serving a total of 15 years.
This service alone might have justified having a school named after him. But, his devotion to the education of the village’s children was especially noteworthy.
Early in his tenure, McClure recognized the need for more land to accommodate the expanding school population. However, he also recognized that the Board of Education could not afford to embark on such an expensive venture. So, unbeknownst to village residents, McClure purchased several vacant lots north of the Grand Avenue School at very favorable prices. And, in later years, when the Board needed the land, he transferred title to the property at the same price he had paid years earlier.
The importance of McClure’s farsightedness became even more evident as the school population boomed. Few people were aware when he purchased an entire city block on Wolf Road using his own funds. But, later, when the village needed land for a second elementary school, he donated the property. And, characteristically, he donated the land in memory of his parents. The resulting school was initially known as the Wolf Road School and later renamed McClure Junior High School.
During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the School Board was in even more serious trouble, literally unable to pay its teachers. Again, without any fanfare, McClure stepped forward and personally purchased many of the school bonds that provided the needed capital to keep the schools open.
In 1935, the village held a dinner in honor of McClure. In later years, McClure sold his business to the Reynolds Metals Company and retired to Waterloo, Illinois. He died in 1956 at the age of 89.
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