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Remembering Governor Jim Thompson

​James R. Thompson, known to Illinoisans as Big Jim, served as the state's governor from January 1977 to January 1991, a total of fourteen years. Thompson first came to prominence when he was U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and especially when he successfully prosecuted former governor Otto Kerner on corruption charges.

During his long tenure as governor, he developed a reputation as a moderate Republican who was a fiscal conservative, but also a friend of labor and a builder, with Build Illinois being his administration's signature achievement. He traveled the world promoting Illinois and its products. He also had a passion for history and antiques, and thus created the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in support of those passions.

Following his many years in office, he worked in the private sector, serving as the chair of the important Chicago law firm, Winston and Strawn for many years. He also found time to serve on the 9/11 Commission. Thompson maintained a high profile and was a highly popular figure, and he will always be remembered and revered as one of the titans in the history of state government.

Virtual Registry Signatures

08-19-2020 05:43 PM Jay Pearce (Rock Island)
I covered Big Jim's entire time in office as a news reporter. I always thought he was at his best when he was among people. Especially in the laid back atmosphere of southern Illinois...and the DuQuoin State Fair. It was clear he loved being Governor.

08-19-2020 05:41 PM Julia San Fratello (Chicago)
Thank you to Big Jim for his outstanding support of historic properties in Illinois. We have a better culture of preservation and more effective incentives for preservation of historic properties than other states such as neighboring Indiana for example. Hats off to him also for his longtime enthusiasm for Northwestern Law School and Dean David Ruder. Despite his intimidating size and position, Jim Thompson put me at ease by being very present the one or two times that I met him. I am thinking of his family and wishing them strength in this very hard time to lose someone. Every person deserves a grand send-off, especially a governor of great integrity.

08-19-2020 05:19 PM Jessee Dagen (Chicago)

08-19-2020 04:53 PM Cynthia A. Given (Olney)
Gov. Thompson served all of Illinois. He was a man of (and for) the people. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.

08-19-2020 04:52 PM Sonia Hernandez-Cortes (Chicago)
I never met him personally, but I did live in Chicago while he was governor. Chicago was a better place to live. May god bless you and your family. REST IN PEACE.

08-19-2020 04:49 PM Melisse Trentz (Champaign)
I met Governor Thompson as a teenager in the early 80's. Very kind, took the time to talk with me even though he was very busy. We didn't worry about Illinois in the Big Jim days. Rest in Peace, Governor.

08-19-2020 04:46 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)
When I was in eighth grade I went to Springfield, Illinois for the National Spelling Bee. One of the highlights of our trip was to get to tour the capitol building. We went by Governor Thompson‘s office and he greeted each of us as we passed by and welcomed us to Springfield. A little later on I saw him as he was leaving the building. I asked him if I could take his picture. “He smiled and said of course”. Then he turned to my friend and said, “could you take our picture please?” “Then he asked me if I wanted to go into politics someday”? I will never forget how this busy man took his time with young people, taking pictures and asking what was important to us. I still have that picture and every time I look at it I think of a politician who really cared.

08-19-2020 04:36 PM sloan's The ( Duquoin)
Duquoin state Fair

08-19-2020 04:19 PM Charles Gentert (Lostant )

08-19-2020 04:18 PM Debbie (Niles)
My dad owned a deli in Lakeview in the 80’s. Big Jim would go into the store and visit with my dad. Guessing somewhere there is a picture of him signed to my dad Jerry. He will be missed!

08-19-2020 04:18 PM Kathy Eggert (VERNON HILLS)
Governor Thompson was a governor of the people. He cared about our state and the people who lived there. God bless you all during this difficult time.

08-19-2020 04:00 PM Patty tuft (Fox lake)
My mother sent an invitation to my sisters graduation from I.S.U. He wasn’t able to attend but sent a card with best wishes

08-19-2020 04:00 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)

08-19-2020 03:58 PM Ryan Gleason (Chicago)
Indebted forever for SAVING OUR SOX!

08-19-2020 03:48 PM Joyce C Burger (Chicago)
I met Gov. Thompson once at an event on UIC Campus. He was a 'big' guy. But he was also friendly, charismatic, and easy to approach. He was a great governor whose shoes have proved impossible to fill. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

08-19-2020 03:44 PM PAUL TITUS (Bradley)
I have 2 memories of the governor. First was when he was campaigning for the very first time for the office. He was at a WIU football game and the Peach Blossoms dressed him up as one of them. He looked great, cheering on the Leathernecks in his red wig and toilet plunger! Then he visited my worksite, the ISP Forensic Lab in Maywood, and I got to shake his hand and explain how a critical piece of instrumentation worked. He was a good man, and my condolences to his family.

08-19-2020 03:44 PM Marybeth Eads (Champaign )
Our friend, Mary Frances Fagan, enjoyed her time with Mrs. Thompson and the Governor. He respected and worked with Republicans, Democrats and Independents for the good of Illinois.

08-19-2020 03:38 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)
When I was in 8th grade I went to Springfield Illinois for the state spelling bee contest. One of our f

08-19-2020 03:37 PM Levi Austin (Texico)

08-19-2020 03:35 PM Leon Wallace jr (Burnham)
Sending prayers and condolences to the family. I was working for the county and watching the Thompson center being built. It was a great site to see. I enjoyed going to the Thompson center when it was finished. God bless.

08-19-2020 03:32 PM Eugenia Cutler (South Holland )
Rest in peace Governor Thompson. Grateful for your dedicated service to our state. Prayers for the family.

08-19-2020 03:32 PM Jane Grisham (Eureka )
Our high school band was supposed to play at his inauguration when a snow storm hit. We ended marching inside the armory. I followed him after that. I thought he was a great governor.

08-19-2020 03:30 PM Lady Glen (Chicago)
The only Republican I ever voted for.

08-19-2020 03:20 PM Thomas L. Malone (Chicago )
Governor Thompson was one of my favorite Governor. RIP Big Jim.

08-19-2020 03:16 PM Mary Giddings (Naperville )
Back in the early 80’s I worked at Helene Curtis. He would be in and out visiting Mr. Gidwitz. We would be waiting to get in the elevator and people would say we can’t get in that’s the Governor but he always looked friendly so I stepped on. I started meeting up in the elevator and he was so nice and if he was at the building and didn’t see me in the elevator he would stop by my desk to say hi! He did so much good for our state. God Bless him his family🙏🏻

08-19-2020 03:12 PM Thomas L. Malone (Chicago)
Governor Thompson was one of my favorite governor. RIP Big Jim.

08-19-2020 03:09 PM John Kjellquist (Springfield)
I worked for the Bureau of the Budget from 1983 until 1991. When Jim Riley left the Governor's Office the retirement party was at the Mansion. Towards the end of the party I sat down with Governor Thompson on the side porch above the Rose Garden. With both had a drink and just sat and chatted. He was the nicest, most down to earth person I ever met in state government. I am proud to have worked for him

08-19-2020 03:09 PM Mike Rohan (Orland Park)
My first encounter with him was in the 80's while still in high school downstate, as he flew in to dedicate a new stretch of interstate. In 1999, I was hired as a new associate attorney at Winston & Strawn in Chicago, and Governor Thompson was Chairman of the firm. He was always very kind to me, and like the former politician he was, took an interest in everyone in the room. Rest in peace, Governor, and thank you for everything you did for all of us.

08-19-2020 03:08 PM Judy Prebell (Chicago)
My Father and Mother were staunch Democrats but greatly admired Big Jim Thompson...I will go further and add...Big Jim was the greatest Governor we ever had...a friendly guy.

08-19-2020 03:05 PM Campbell McHugh (Springfield)
I am an Illinois native now living in Texas. Always remember the joy Governor Thompson showed when heading up the State Fair parade. Also, the kindness and warmth he displayed when seeing our young daughters! RIP Sir and thank you.

08-19-2020 03:02 PM ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL LEAGUE (Springfield)
Governor Thompson will be remembered for his steadfast support of the cities, villages and towns of Illinois, and his friendships with the mayors and local officials who served them. He fostered a true partnership between state and local governments for the betterment of Illinois.

08-19-2020 02:46 PM Nathan Griffith (Granite City)
Never got to meet this great guy! Have heard nothing but great things about what he did for our beautiful state of Illinois! Fly High friend, you did outstanding herr on Earth!

08-19-2020 02:45 PM JoAnne G (Urbana)
I came of voting age during his tenure as governor and is, to this day, the only Republican I have ever voted for. He showed me what it meant to be a leader, regardless of party affiliation. In later years, which I lived in the Uptown area, driving to Lake Shore Dr. down Montrose, I would see him outside one of the high rises in that area by the lake. I also had good thoughts when I say Big Jim. Prayers to the family he left behind, the people of Illinois are grateful you shared him with us.

08-19-2020 02:43 PM Tony J Yuscius (Penfield)
I was working for the Illinois Information Service in 1976 and was assigned to the very latest video mini-cam crew. The instructions were hundreds of pages long and in Japanese. Governor Thompson was extremely patient when we were constantly fiddling with the newfangled camera and always greeted me by name when he visited our office to appear on video.

08-19-2020 02:42 PM Laurie (Wheeling)
I was 8 when he became the IL Governor. He was the Governor until I was in my 20's. My young self thought he was permanently in the office, so he will always be Illinois' Governor to me!

08-19-2020 02:37 PM Timothy Cobler and Victoria Villerel (Joliet)

A good man, who lowered house taxes was a great man may he rest in peace

08-19-2020 02:35 PM Nick Krohe (Beardstown)

08-19-2020 02:35 PM Josephine Richardson (Chicago )
He was a governor for all of us, no matter race, religion or language.

08-19-2020 02:33 PM Governor JB Pritzker (Chicago)
On behalf of the entire state of Illinois, MK and I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of former Governor Jim Thompson. As the longest-serving governor in Illinois history, ‘Big Jim’ was known to treat people he encountered with kindness and decency. He dedicated himself to building positive change for Illinois, and he set an example for public service of which Illinoisans should be proud. He will be remembered and revered as one of the titans in the history of state government.

08-19-2020 02:27 PM Anthony Anderson (Joliet )

08-19-2020 02:27 PM Curt Clemons-Mosby (Springfield)
Governor Thompson was Governor for the first 12 years of my life. When I was young I thought that the only person who could be Governor was Jim Thompson. My family loved Big Jim and his name was spoken with reverence in my house. I would see him around Springfield. Stopping in to get popcorn at Hills department store snack bar, walking in the state fair parade, and greeting me as I went trick or treat the Governor’s Mansion. I was so proud to see the Governor on the 9/11 Commission. For me Jim Thompson Made government service a noble calling to aspire to. I have worked in the. Governor’s Office for the past ten years, and I think about him often. God Bless you Governor Thompson. May light perpetual shine upon you.

08-19-2020 02:22 PM Nia Odeoti-Hassan (Springfield )
I started on the Senate Democrat staff during Gov Thomposon’s second term. He served as model for future Governor My fond memory got the Governor work the passage of kills on the Senate floor

08-19-2020 02:15 PM Don and Alice Graff (Tinley Park)
Wanted to offer our sympathy to the Thompson family for the loss of such a wonderful man and great governor. Wish we had more leaders like Gov Thompson unfortunately our current Governor is doing a very bad job and doesn't have our best interests at heart. God bless Gov Jim Thompson and let him rest in peace!

08-19-2020 02:12 PM Joy Nixon (Joliet)
I always felt that Governor Thompson had the people of Illinois in his best interest. To the family, I am so sorry for your loss. May memories of Governor Thompson and the love of family surround you and give you strength in the days ahead.

08-19-2020 02:11 PM Jane Mager Moellendorf (Huntley )
Back in the early1980s I got to meet Gov Thompson while he was visiting the open house at the Ford Stamping Plant in Chicago Heights, Il. We shared a nice conversation about our young children who were the same age. My family was a very strong supporter of the Governor. He will be remembered as the greatest Governor the State of Illinois has had.

08-19-2020 02:08 PM Sheri Adelson (Prospect Heights)
I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the Thompson Family. May he Rest In Peace.

08-19-2020 02:07 PM NATE PHILLIPS (CHICAGO)
I am a registered Democrat. but Gov. Thompson was always thought to be fair to both sides of the aisle and he will be missed and may you his family as well as friends and colleagues for ever bask in his memory.

He was for the people.

08-19-2020 02:07 PM Elizabeth Egbo (Tinley Park )
May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace

08-19-2020 02:07 PM Timothy Dixon (Chicago)
I just wanted to share my condolences with the family. May God continue to bless and be with you during these tough times. I will be in prayer for the family. Tim Dixon

08-19-2020 02:06 PM Hilda and Alphoncia Mabon (Chicago)
Our condolences to the longest term Governor of Illinois. Thank you.

08-19-2020 02:06 PM Juliet Musial (Palos Park)