Morton Man Receives Carnegie Medal

Jan 16, 2018

A Morton man has received the Carnegie Medal for his heroic action in 2015.


James Vernon standing with 18th District Congressman Darin LaHood (R). The Peoria Congressman awarded Vernon the Carnegie Medal for Heroism Monday, January 15, 2018.
Credit Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

77-year-old James Vernon intervened between a knife-wielding man and a room full of children at the Morton Public Library. The Army Veteran and retiree was teaching a chess class when 19-year-old Dustin Brown entered the room with two knives, shouting his intent to kill people.  


Sandy Rassi, whose kids were present, helped get the 16 children out of the room. She says, "Jim was phenomenal in just talking with the young man and just deflecting his attention from the kid in the room because he really came in with the intent to hurt children.”

Vernon disarmed the young man and sustained cuts to his hand and arm that required surgery. Vernon says it was important to him that Brown trial was over before he received the medal so he could speak openly about it.


James Vernon, his wife, and family have a light moment with Congressman Darin LaHood and news reporters after Vernon was awarded the rare Carnegie Medal for heroism, Monday, January 15, 2018. Vernon disarmed a knife-wielding man who was threatening a room full of children at a public library in 2015.
Credit Tanya Koonce / Peoria Public Radio

Congressman Darin LaHood awarded Vernon the Carnegie Medal Monday. He says Vernon’s actions were the definition of heroic. The 113-year-old Carnegie Commission recognizes civilian heroism in the U.S. and Canada. About 20-percent of those awards are made posthumously.


James Vernon received national and international media attention after that October 2015 day. He says he's still responding to the more than 1,000 pieces of mail and messages people have sent.


Vernon continues to teach chess at Morton Public Library. In fact, Vernon's wife says he teaches chess Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.