* I can’t help but think about our late friend Carlos Hernandez Gomez when reading this story today…
A daylong look at the life and legacy of a former Illinois governor who led a ground-breaking national study on urban violence, reformed the state’s mental health system and became a federal appeals court judge before doing prison time for corruption, is coming to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.
The Governor’s Conference on Otto Kerner begins at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 2 and will include a critical look at what happened to Kerner. Among panelists is Anton Kerner, son of the late governor, who questions the fairness of Kerner’s prosecution; and Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman, authors of a 1999 book “Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights.”
In it, they argue that Kerner could be seen as a victim of unfortunate timing — given that his 1971 indictment linked to ownership of racetrack stock came in the wake of the 1970 death of former Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell, who was found to have hoarded more than $800,000 in cash, some in a shoe box, in the old St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield.
“We think it’s going to be a fascinating look at one of our former governors,” said Mark DePue, director of oral history at the presidential library. “It’s something of a tragedy that he’s only remembered today because he was … convicted for some things that happened during his administration.”
Carlos was fascinated with Kerner’s legacy. He believed the former governor may have been railroaded by an over zealous federal prosecutor (Jim Thompson) who went on to use that successful prosecution to elect himself governor.
Carlos wanted to write a book about Kerner, but then he got sick and passed away. Carlos was very tough on politicians, but he wasn’t a cynical hater. He always tried to get every side of a story, so I think his Kerner book would’ve been fascinating. We’ll never know.