Vitato donates proclamation replica to Wayland

Release Date: May 7, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – On March 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation claiming April 30, 1863, as “a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” In 2009, a replica of that proclamation found its way to the halls of Wayland Baptist University where it is proudly displayed on the third floor of Gates Hall.

Kip Vitato, a former employee in the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences, donated the replica from her personal collection. Vitato, upon request of the National Day of Prayer Task Force in 1981, created the replica to be submitted to President Ronald Reagan in an attempt to have him permanently set aside a day as the National Day of Prayer.

Lincoln’s original proclamation read in part that the nation would remember April 30, 1863, as a National Day of Prayer in “hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize that sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

As a 19-year-old pre-law student at Abilene Christian University, Vitato had been working as an intern at the West Central Texas Council of Governments. One of the women she worked with was involved in another group that was part of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Knowing that Vitato was an accomplished calligraphist, she was asked to reproduce the original proclamation.

The proclamation was written by President Lincoln on four sheets of paper and is framed and hanging in Washington D.C. Vitato’s job was to reproduce the document on a single piece of paper.

Vitato said she spent four days learning the copper plating technique that would be used on the replica. Once she was familiar with the process she completed the document in one sitting.

“It took me eight hours and 20 minutes to complete it,” she said. “But I did it all at once. I never got up.”

Vitato sent her original to the task force which submitted it to President Reagan. Before sending it, however, they made two copies for Vitato. In 1982, President Reagan signed a proclamation for a National Day of Prayer, and in 1988, he amended it to make the National Day of Prayer a permanent fixture on the national calendar, celebrated on the first Thursday of May each year. Vitato thought that this year, being Lincoln’s 200th birthday, would be a good time to donate the proclamation to Wayland.

Dr. Niler Pyeatt, professor of history, said the school is extremely appreciative to Vitato for the donation.

“This represents an important piece of American history,” Pyeatt said. “While there have been several proclamations like this from different presidents, this one came from one of our most important American presidents.”

Pyeatt said Vitato, a fixture at many Wayland events, has mentioned in the past that she had worked on the project, but it wasn’t until recently that she decided to donate it to the school.

“I was real happy to give it to Wayland,” she said. “This had a lot of history behind it, and I thought Wayland would be a good place to display it.”