* I spoke to the Institute of Government and Public Affairs last year and afterwards Jim Edgar asked me to lunch. I insisted that Sam Gove join us. I’d never really talked to him before and he didn’t disappoint. Clear headed with a great sense of humor and lots of stories. A true Illinois giant has passed away…
Samuel K. Gove, director emeritus of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, founder of Illinois Issues magazine, and a longtime fixture in Illinois state politics, died early Friday, Jan. 28, in an Urbana hospital. He was 87.
Gove joined the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) as a research assistant in 1950, just three years after the institute was created by resolution of the Illinois General Assembly. He later served as acting director three times before becoming director of IGPA in 1967, beginning an 18-year tenure.
“Sam Gove was a beloved colleague in IGPA,” said Robert F. Rich, the current director. “He was really Mr. Illinois and universally respected in our state, both in academia and in government for his many contributions. He will be greatly missed.”
Gove was active behind the scenes in Illinois state government for years. He directed the legislative staff intern program from 1962-73, was a member of several commissions and advisory boards and served on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He also was a member of the transition teams for Governors Dan Walker and Jim Edgar.
“Sam was one of my mentors,” Edgar said. “If it hadn’t been for Sam Gove, there may not have been a legislative intern program and that was my entry (into public service).”
Gove was founding chairman of Illinois Issues, and served on the magazine’s advisory board for 28 years.
“He sort of was the embodiment of Illinois government,” said former Illinois legislator and comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, a longtime friend. “He understood how all these pieces fit together (politically) but then always was involved in how it should work. He knew how to suggest things that would help to make it work better.”
While director of IGPA, Gove served in a variety of roles leading up to the 1970 Constitutional Convention in Illinois and led a team that prepared a series of research papers that established the issues for the convention. These papers included one titled “The Illinois Constitution: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis,” a 624-page analysis of the state’s 1870 Constitution written under Gove’s guidance by George D. Braden and Rubin G. Cohn.
“That became the bible for the delegates to the convention,” Gove said in a 2007 IGPA oral history.
“Sam was an institution in and around the state Capitol, where he was viewed by lawmakers as Mr. Good Government,” said Jim Nowlan, a longtime friend and colleague at IGPA. “He was a strong proponent of modernizing a legislature that had been condemned in national magazines for its backwardness, and Sam worked closely with legislative task forces to improve the legislative rules and provide professional staff for committees and lawmakers.”
Gove was also a member of the U of I faculty, beginning as research assistant professor in 1951 and became a full professor of political science in 1961. He served as acting director and director of the university’s Master’s degree program in public administration from 1987-89.