PAXTON — State Rep. Tom Bennett said Thursday that he plans to file legislation in the next few days that would call for a sign to be installed in Paxton in memory of a state trooper who was killed in a gun battle in the 600 block of East Pells Street nearly 73 years ago.
The Republican from Gibson City said the memorial sign was requested by lifelong Paxton resident Bill Archer, who was just 5 years old when his uncle, state trooper Marvin Archer, was gunned down on June 18, 1946. Mr. Archer was 31.
Bennett said that last October, Bill Archer approached his chief of staff, David Littlefield, about the possibility of sponsoring legislation to honor Mr. Archer.
Bill Archer made the request immediately following a ceremony held to dedicate an overpass crossing Interstate 57 south of Paxton as the “McCarter-Caisse-Vice-Hale Memorial Overpass.” More than a year earlier, Bennett had sponsored the legislation to allow for signs to be installed there as a tribute to the two police officers and one civilian who died in a shootout there on April 7, 1979, along with the one officer who survived.
Similar to the I-57 shootout, the incident that led to Mr. Archer’s death 33 years earlier shook the small, normally quiet community of Paxton.
“I vaguely remember the day of the funeral,” Bill Archer told the Ford County Record in 2015. “They made me stay at my grandma’s house over on East Spruce Street. I was so little that they didn’t want me to get involved, but I remember it was a sad day. I’d seen that everybody was really let down over it.”
Mr. Archer and another state trooper, Verne Harper of Gibson City, had stopped a stolen vehicle from Chicago, and when they ordered the vehicle’s two occupants out of the vehicle, one of the men took off running, and the other man started shooting.
“They had run the stop light over ... at U.S. 45 and Route 9, and (the police) proceeded to chase them,” Bill Archer said. “They stopped them out there on the curb just before Pells Park, where the big white pillars are (on the front of the home on the north side of the street). That’s where it all took place.”
Mr. Archer, along with the remaining suspect, were killed in the gun fight. The suspect who fled, meanwhile, was later shot to death by police near Gifford, after he had stolen two cars in an attempt to make a getaway.
Mr. Archer, or “Tump” as locals called him, had just returned from a three-year tour of duty in the South Pacific in World War II. Mr. Archer had began his career as a state patrolman in 1940 before his career was interrupted by the war.
Bennett said a draft of the proposed resolution honoring Mr. Archer had been completed but was still under review as of Thursday. After checking with Mr. Archer’s surviving family to make sure the resolution’s language is OK, Bennett intends to file the legislation in the next few days, he said, and it will then be introduced in committee.
“We need to recognize our law enforcement for the sacrifices they’ve made over time,” Bennett said. “This is important. We want to recognize them and show our appreciation for them if we can, for sure.”