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Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 26, 2015

* The third chapter in this extraordinary Illinoisan’s public life is about to come to a close

Winston & Strawn announced Tuesday that former Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson will step down in early 2016 after 25 years with the high-powered law firm. The 78-year-old Republican served four terms as governor before joining Winston & Strawn after he left office in 1991. […]

Winston & Strawn says Thompson, as a chairman, played key roles in its expansion in the U.S. and abroad. Thompson will continue to work as a consultant for the law firm for two years after his retirement.

US Attorney, popular and accomplished four-term governor and then one of the top lawyers in the state.

* The Question: Your fondest Big Jim memory/story?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Louis G Atsaves - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:15 pm:

    Serving him breakfast many mornings at the crack of dawn when he was first campaigning for governor. Back in the days when he lived just down the street from my late father’s restaurant. Had that people’s touch even back then.

  2. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:17 pm:

    Any time a reporter caught him in the Capitol or anywhere else for that matter, he could talk articulately about anything.

    Some of Governors after him had trouble with that.

  3. - D.P.Gumby - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:18 pm:

    The antique sale on the mansion lawn. Chatting about antiques and buying a couple pieces we still have. No politics or policy, just the same as any other similar event when you run into someone who has a similar interest.

  4. - Anonin' - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    Fun group so there were lots of stories.
    How about the morning Jayne Carr popped up for breakfast in Champaign at the motel — before the sacrament of holy matrimony had been administered?

  5. - DuPage - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:21 pm:

    I remember the clip of him signing the right of public employees to unionize.

  6. - Ginhouse Tommy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:24 pm:

    Whenever he went to southern ill. to give a speech he would suddenly pickup a southern drawl.

  7. - vise77 - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:26 pm:

    “Whenever he went to southern ill. to give a speech he would suddenly pickup a southern drawl. ”

    Indeed. I was very young then, but I remember asking either my mom and dad: “Did he grow up around here” or something like that. Ha!

  8. - Stones - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:31 pm:

    Lobbying the legislature in after midnight to keep the White Sox in Chicago. I recall listening to the play by play on WBBM radio in Chicago.

  9. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:37 pm:

    We share the same birthday date.

    So one day, there he is on our campus, about fifteen years ago, walking through one of the cafeterias with a tray on our birthday. He was only with the university president, who knew me well and they sat at an isolated table away from students and faculty.

    I ran into the café and brought out two big pieces of chocolate cake. One for each of us. Then I walked up to both of them singing, “Happy Birthday To Us”, and sat down with the cake.

    He loved the surprise, and laughed hard at what I did, and we shared our birthday cake together.

  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:44 pm:

    There are so many, but here’s just one.

    I remember watching one of his 1986 speeches when he talked about how hard he worked to secure the endorsements of both the Illinois Chamber and the Illinois AFL-CIO. He was extremely proud of that accomplishment, and said it had always been his dream.

  11. - Oneman - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    I am gonna cheat and have three..

    When I was a kid, he would come to Dolton every year for the 4th of July parade and work the route. We would always stand in the same basic spot without a lot of folks around us and he would always come over and chat for about a minute. When you are 10 and the Governor comes and talks to you it is a big deal. Still one of the best I have ever seen in politics talking to folks.

    My wife’s grandmother had a picture that he had signed showing her ‘using that finger’ the one she used when she wanted to tell you something (if you knew her, you knew she was making a point) and the Governor is bent over (he had to be at least a foot taller than her) listening while holding a beer bottle. Always loved that picture.


    Had a state senator tell me this one, the governor was working the floor lobbying against a bill and he this state senator saw him coming over and the governor said “You we together on this” and the state senator replyed “What do you mean we kemosabe” and Thompson laughed and went to find another arm to twist…

    Anytime I have thought when it came to state that we needed to the the adults involved, his was the face that I would see.

  12. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:48 pm:

    I don’t have a story but I believe Thompson was the most intelligent man we’ve had as Governor in my lifetime.

  13. - Secretariat - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:50 pm:

    Watching him work the Houby Day parade in Berwyn and Cicero. When he was done everyone would say what great guy he was and wasn’t it nice to have a Governor “who was one of us”!!! We should have changed the Illinois Constitution and made the State a monarchy and appointed him King of Illinois for Life!!!

  14. - A guy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:50 pm:

    Mike Howlett was fond of saying about Thompson during his first race for Governor that he had a dog named Gov. and in 4 years he’d be changing his name to Prez. At a DuPage County event, Thompson said, “first off, this term is only two years, and secondly, you can’t change a dog’s name after 4 years. That’s the only reason I’m only looking at being Gov”. It was a funny line that left Mike with a very confused look.

  15. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:51 pm:

    I didn’t get to see this one in person but heard about it from someone who was there; this was shortly after the Superbowl “scandal”. When he arrived in Chicago to find a bunch of State employees waiting to take the plane back to Springfield, it was obvious it would be close or over capacity. Big Jim just pointed down the field to the Xerox jet and suggested hopping a lift on it.

  16. - Jocko - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:52 pm:

    I was a teen at the Rock-n-Roll McDonalds in Chicago. I asked my friend what time it was.

    My friend looked to his empty wrist, then across the tables and says, “Governor Thompson. Do you have the time?” Big Jim happily obliged.

  17. - JS Mill - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 12:54 pm:

    Partying with the undergrads at the U of I and drinking schnapps from a plunger. I would guess that no one could be that fun loving and that effective again.

  18. - Anon - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:01 pm:

    I have none.

  19. - redleg - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    Shook his hand in the Panatrol department at the old General Electric plant in 1976. Firmest handshake ever from any politician. The guy was much more than just “big”.

  20. - Nick Naylor - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    While this is not a “fond” memory, I will never forget the public hearings around Cathy Crowell Webb’s recantation of rape charges against Mr. Gary Dotson where DNA evidence was used to as a basis to grant clemency. While the hearings at times were a bit of a circus, the hearings resulted in first-in-the-nation use of DNA evidence to clear an accused man. Ironically, it’s the same DNA evidence that subsequently led to the proper decision to outlaw capital punishment in Illinois.

  21. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:06 pm:

    Not one thing, but I’m certain I’ve never seen a politician as comfortable in his own skin both governing and campaigning.

    Some can do one well, many can do neither all that well, but he was the standard for both.

    After all the years, though, I think the thing I admire most is the way he stuck with George Ryan all the way to the jailhouse door and beyond.

    They weren’t best buddies; the two of them had a pretty stormy relationship at times. Ryan certainly found out how many friends he had after he was indicted. But Ryan was his guy, and Thompson stuck with him.

    Thompson got nothing but grief for doing it; there was no upside. But it was the act of a real human being, not a calculating politician, and it demonstrated an admirable strength of character.

  22. - A guy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:07 pm:

    That hearing let us see a 2 story high picture of underwear. You don’t forget that.

  23. - Deep South - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:11 pm:

    Thompson would always come to the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds on Hambletonian Day and mix with the crowd for the afternoon.
    I was a reporter for a local radio station and was phoning in my story from the fair’s media room after the big race was over. I had gone over to a corner of the room for privacy….phone line trailing behind me. While reading my script into the phone, I felt a tug on the line, so I pulled back…hard. My wife was with me and she told me Big Jim had tripped on the line and I had almost killed him when I pulled back.

  24. - Rockthawk - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:15 pm:

    Drinking out of a plunger at a U of I football game! Whenever protesters showed up at an event he would not dodge them, he would walk right up to them, by the time he walked away he had defused the anger. Great Governor

  25. - Carl Nyberg - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:16 pm:

    Paul, the retired head librarian of the Hegewisch branch of the Chicago Public Library told a story about presenting petitions to Gov. Thompson.

    They had been trying to get a new library in Hegewisch and run into a series of “no”s. But there was a possibility of getting some state money.

    So Paul and others circulated petitions. They got 5,000 (forget exact number, but in the thousands) sigs.

    Paul presented the sigs to Gov. Thompson. He responded, “I didn’t know you had that many people in Hegewisch who could read.”

  26. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:22 pm:

    Rockthawk, the guy didn’t duck anyone. Most accessible big time office holder to public and press.

  27. - School Finance - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:22 pm:

    Perhaps my favorite was when Thompson plucked my baby daughter from my wife’s arms as he walked by in the State Fair parade. Thompson and Topinka fought over who would carry my baby daughter for blocks while my wife tried to follow behind to keep track of our child.

  28. - A Jack - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:23 pm:

    When he was running for governor the first time, outside the state fair, he was shaking hands. My father asked him his party and my very Republican father wished him a hearty good luck. Who would have thought it would last him four terms.

  29. - ChiTown Seven - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:25 pm:

    I don’t know about good memories. . . . He seemed to have lost his bearings when he went to the law firm. He took on the case arguing that Illinois’ public pensions somehow had a “civil right” to invest $ in projects to benefit the Sudan government (which according to the US Government sponsored both genocide and terrorism), and his position on that had a lot of people wondering if he was willing to do anything for a buck.

  30. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:26 pm:

    == the guy didn’t duck anyone ==

    Yep. He didn’t mind owning his actions. Whenever a reporter didn’t like some deal Thompson put together, the standard answer was pretty much: You don’t like it, print it!

  31. - Toure's Latte - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:29 pm:


    Taped an interview in college with a tiny short reporter. We thought it’d be funny to pan back and show her standing on a chair. He agreed and did it.

    Played with every foursome at a charity golf outing, and at the BBQ after, knew everyone’s name and greeted everyone like they were old friends.

  32. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:30 pm:

    Only had one interaction with him after he left office and joined the law firm. Although it wasn’t worth a penny to him, he took the time to write back and answer my question.

  33. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:31 pm:

    I was told that at a Union protest on the Capitol grounds, they were pretty steamed over whatever the issue was, Jim took the podium spoke a few words, and just mentioned that there was free beer down the street……the protest kinda dispersed after that

  34. - Ducky LaMoore - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:33 pm:

    Riding a horse through the statehouse and getting the new Comiskey Park funding (and how he got it).

  35. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:36 pm:

    ===I was told===

    There was far more to that speech than what you were told. I actually studied the speech in college. It was a masterful piece of work.

  36. - Sarge - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:37 pm:

    In 1976 candidates for Governor still ran at the same time as the President. Candidate Thompson and President Ford came to town together that fall. The President went to have a private lunch with the local muckety-mucks. Thompson grabbed a bunch of us high school kids out of the audience and took us with him as he went store-to-store around the downtown. We finished at a tavern where he drug all of us high schoolers inside and bought us all bottles of Coke. Sitting in there was an immediately scared spitless State Trooper who tried to sneak in for a quick refreshment while the President was otherwise occupied at lunch. Thompson saw him, slapped him on the back, told him to be sure to keep hydrated, and bought him another beer. Hard to top a first encounter like that.

  37. - Soccermom - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:37 pm:

    Back when I was a reporter, I was working from home one morning. After putting in a few calls, I jumped in the shower. Then (of course) the phone rang. I grabbed a towel and ran — dripping — to pick it up.

    The guy on the phone said “This is Jim Thompson.” And I thought — gosh, I know a Don Thompson, and and a Rick Thompson. Then — ah, you mean GOVERNOR Thompson.

    Well, even Soccermom didn’t have the stones to ask the Governor to hold on for just a minute. So I sat there, wearing only a towel, and interviewed the Governor for Time magazine. (And no, I did not tell the Governor that I was not dressed at the time.)

  38. - MOON - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:46 pm:

    A wile ago I heard Speaker Madigan say that in his opinion the 3 best politicians he knew were Richard J. Daley, Harold Washington, and Jim Thompson.

  39. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:48 pm:

    The beer tents while working the state fairs. Big Jim’s “lemonade” was epic! He made a point to talk to all the employees, whether working or not.

  40. - formerGOPer - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:49 pm:

    In his first weeks as Governor - presiding over the Senate and presiding over the Senate and presiding over the Senate. I think it was nearly 200 rollcalls before a new President was elected. Should have been named an honorary Senator since he was there so long.

  41. - Stones - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:50 pm:

    As a follow up to my prior comment about Big Jim twisting arms to keep the White Sox in Chicago, here is a link to Chicago Magazine article from a few years ago. You can agree or disagree that it was the right thing to do but this was classic Jim Thompson.

  42. - Nearly Normal - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:51 pm:

    I was in the crowd when Gov. Thompson signed the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act at the IEA Summer Leadership Academy at ISU. He also used to come over to the tent in the IEA office parking lot when we had Lobby Day back when sessions went into June. The gov would get a hot dog and a beer and chat with attendees.

  43. - Bob Hicks - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:53 pm:

    Budgeteers meeting in 205 with McPike, Maitland, Etheridge, Ryder, Carroll and Big Jim watching over us with a Miller Lite in hand. Also, end of session parties at the Mansion. He was one of the guys.

  44. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:55 pm:

    === Also, end of session parties at the Mansion. ===

    I attended his final party. We were asked to leave at around 5 in the morning because the governor wanted to go to bed.


  45. - Johnny Rotten - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 1:59 pm:

    On more than one occasion growing up in the 80s, my family and I would see him and his family at the White Oaks Mall movie theater taking in a movie. While I’m sure State Police were on the premises, the Thompsons always seemed to be just buying tickets and ordering popcorn by themselves as a family. At least one time, it cracked us up that Jim was in old faded jeans while his wife had on a fur coat….to go to the movies.

  46. - Nearly Normal - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:02 pm:

    Stones–That was not the only time the clock was stopped at 11:59 p.m. There were some interesting sessions back in the day that saw the state budget approved at the end of a session that actually went into the next day.

  47. - Stones - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:03 pm:

    Nearly Normal-

    I was on the floor for a few of them - as a Page. Interesting times and interesting characters back then.

  48. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:08 pm:

    I met him at the opening of the Diamond Star plant in Normal in ‘86 or ‘87. I was a college student working for the caterer, but as he was wont to do, he came over and introduced himself and asked what we were serving. None of the Chrysler or Mitsubishi people bothered talking to the help, but Big Jim went out of his way to say hello to us. I always remembered that.

    Does anyone know if it’s true about the rest stop built on I-55 near Pontiac? I heard that he once had to “go” around there, and before that rest stop, there wasn’t anything around for miles. After using the shoulder of the highway to, um, rest, an order went out to IDOT and soon enough, a brand new rest stop was built.

    If that’s a true story, it’s pretty funny.

  49. - Vickie Moseley - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    I can remember back as a liaison waiting for the last days of session. I knew they were the last days because suddenly, as if by magic, Big Jim would appear on the House floor, usually in shirt sleeves with his suspenders that matched his tie, sleeves rolled up, working a roll call. If he wasn’t on the floor at least once during the day we still had many days of session ahead of us.

  50. - Republicrat - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:31 pm:

    My apologies if this comes across the wrong way, but my family didn’t appreciate his handling of McCuddy’s bar during the new ball park transition. I do know there were multiple forces involved, but, it was what it was.

    Thought he represented Illinois well. I like a both sides of the aisle politician.

  51. - A guy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:31 pm:

    == So I sat there, wearing only a towel, and interviewed the Governor for Time magazine. (And no, I did not tell the Governor that I was not dressed at the time.)===

    Now that he knows, I’ll bet you’ll get another call. lol

  52. - kimocat - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:36 pm:

    I got my first opportunity to meet Big Jim when he was was head of the National Governors Association. I was on the state plane to DC with him to brief him on some pretty technical transportation issues. I was given about 20 minutes to speak. Later that afternoon I watched him talk this stuff in front of other governors like he had known it all his life. He has to be the smartest gov. I ever worked for in state government. And he had a way of making you feel like he cared. That sure spoiled me for rest of them coming afterward.

  53. - A - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:51 pm:

    Giant City Lodge/Clinton/Thompson

    Mutual respect

  54. - Matt Jones - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 2:51 pm:

    One of Thompson’s regular dates was the American Legion’s Premier Boys State at EIU (a one week civics camp). He came and spoke every year, never missed I’m told. When I was a Boy’s Stater he came and gave a stem winder and then donned a much too small Boy’s State t-shirt and walked the track with the 1,000 or so HS boys. I guarantee every Boys Stater of the era remembers it. He was truly the most gifted politician I’ve ever seen in person, a Bill Clinton ahead of his time.

  55. - Belden Ave. - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:04 pm:

    Willie Nelson in an interview talking about how “Farm Aid” started.

    Well, I remember talking to a lot of friends of mine that were farmers. And they were telling me that there was a big problem. And we traveled around the country a lot and talked to a lot of farmers in different parts of the country. But I asked some of my friends in Texas around Abbot and Hills Vern West where I came from if they were having any problems. They said, “Well, it’s getting kind of tight, but they’re really having problems in the midwest.” A few weeks later I was playing in Springfield, Illinois, and the governor, Big Jim Thompson, a good friend of mine, was there. And we used to have a ritual where every year he’d come on the bus and have a bowl of chili and talk. And this particular time, I ask him about the farm situation, and he says, “Yeah, it’s really bad.” So I said, “What can we do about it? Can we do a Farm Aid, or something like that?” He said, “I don’t know, we can try.” So he got the venue in Champaign, Illinois, and we did the first one 21 days later.

  56. - Anonin' - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:11 pm:

    Gotta love:
    Big Jim breezin’ through the press room, downin’ some beers and bein’ a regular guy

  57. - dr. reason a, goodwin - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:19 pm:

    Many great JRT memories. One the best was riding along as a reporter in an RV as he campaigned in deep Southern Illinois. Dinner at The Mansion in Golconda followed by State Rep. C.L. McCormick’s annual gospel sing/political rally. Watching JRT and C.L. delivering their own versions of a political sermon was unforgettable.

  58. - Langhorne - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:21 pm:

    First end of session party at the mansion–much later start than they expected. And we were starving. Cold eggs and warm scotch. Much better next time.

    Ran into him having lunch at norbs. Thanked him for convincing my father in law I was worthy of his daughter. He asked how. I said it was doing a fly around w the gov for program announcements. (1,000 miles by Sikorsky and plane wout leaving the state.)

  59. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:29 pm:

    Never heard the Pontiac I-55 rest area story, but it sounds like one of those things that’s so funny it just might be.

    I helped set up a few events where the Gov was to appear, and remember his advance man Jim Skilbeck. The first time I met him, I thought a bum had walked in off the street and maybe we needed to call security. However, he proved to be one of those guys who showed that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Anyway, at one of those events, Big Jim was up on the podium, and in a moment when he took a break from chit chatting away with his friends on an October day in 1985, I yelled up “how about them Bears!” He immediately looked over in my direction and smiled and said “7 and 0, now let’s get the Vikings!” That was my only conversation with him ever, but he recognized me a few times after that.

  60. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:41 pm:

    He could give some stemwinders.

    I think I’ve mentioned in recent days one he gave at a luncheon in Springfield defending unions and collective bargaining in response to a right to work question. Took the paint off the wall.

    Another was at a union rally for Lech Walesa on a subzero afternoon in Daley Plaza. Just home run after home run on freedom, labor, communism, Poles in Chicago, Rosty….

    The crowd went nuts, despite the unbearable cold.

    I wonder how the current governor would describe a union boss like Walesa who thought that labor had a rightful role in the affairs of it’s state or country?

    I can tell you one thing — Big Jim would have been front and center on that stage in Pullman last week.

  61. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:43 pm:

    After reading comments here, I’m sorry I never met Gov. Thompson. I would have liked to thank him for his support of public employee unions.

  62. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:43 pm:

    ===he’d come on the bus and have a bowl of chili and talk===

    Willie apparently had to put the other bowl away.


  63. - Fan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:47 pm:

    Thompson and his wife were walking in a parade in Taylorville about 1988 and they had just raised the cigarette tax. My whole family, aunts and uncles included were there and started chanting “No more cigarette taxes”. He and his wife wavied and walked on by. Then he turned around and said, “You better stop smoking”. My whole family laughed. They thought he had a great personality after that.

  64. - Arizona Bob - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 3:59 pm:

    I once heard that when he was first named US Attorney in Chicago, a lot of the “bag men” who did their business there in bars across the street from city hall packed up and left town out of fear that he’d nail ‘em. He apparently had the rep as being “untouchable”. The bar owners later complained to him about how he hurt their business by cleaning out the nefarious types.

    True story?

  65. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:01 pm:

    When JRT took office, he inherited Dan Walker’s worn-out official cars, beat-up Chevies. The PR folks on staff convinced him to replace them with a couple of Checker Cabs painted dark blue to look less taxi-like, plenty of legroom, blah blah blah.
    The Checkers were crapcans and he hated them. (Among other things, the blue paint was a respray and the yellow was starting to show through here and there)
    My first personal assignment from Governor Thompson was to “please get rid of those $@&ing Checkers.”

  66. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:02 pm:

    I just realized something.

    After serving 14 years as governor, Thompson was only about a year older than I am now.

  67. - Arizona Bob - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:03 pm:

    I wonder if any journalist ever asked him, in hindsight, whether entitling the teacher unions to strike was in the best interest of the children and taxpayers, and whether if he had to do it again, he’d still do it.

    I’ve never heard him admit remorse for anything he’d ever done, so my guess is that he wouldn’t start with that.

  68. - Publius - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:06 pm:

    He once told me about the time the elder Bush was looking for a vice-presidential running mate.. They appeared at a dinner together in Chicago. The next day the Tribune published a front page picture of them standing side by side at the podium. Thompson towered over Bush. “I looked at that picture and knew I would never be vice presidrnt.” He said.

  69. - Publius - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:11 pm:

    Then there was the editorial cartoon which had Thompson dressed as a magician with a magic wand in his hand. From an up-turned silk hat he has just pulled a sheet of paper with a drawing of a bunny on it and a title on the drawing saying “proposed rabbit”

  70. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:11 pm:

    Beldens story about Farm Aid is a good one.

    Willie couldn’t cut through the red tape in Texas, which is hard to believe, but true (I thought Willie could do anything he wanted in Texas).

    Google the lineup at that first Farm Aid in Champaign. It’s unbelievable. So is the fact that they pulled it off on the fly.

  71. - Angry Chicagoan - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 4:44 pm:

    Nothing specific, but Illinois exuding a general air of functionality.

  72. - Responsa - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:00 pm:

    No personal interaction with him to report, but for me it’s being able to visit The Dana House in Springfield. Definitely the amazing Dana House. If he had never done anything else in public service, or won any cases at Winston, what Thompson did to help push, raise funds, preserve, and help refurnish the pieces of this Frank Lloyd masterpiece makes him a star in my book.

  73. - Carl Draper - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:17 pm:

    My family is in Peoria. During campaign season my brother-in-law would come out of the Cat assembly line after work and cross the street to a popular bar. There would be a big Jim Thompson in his shirt sleeves ready to buy anyone coming in a beer. A regular guy who was sharp as anyone and as down to earth as you could want.

  74. - Responsa - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:19 pm:

    I’m glad you did this thread, Rich, and I’m glad that Big Jim will be able to read it and hopefully appreciate it. Poor Judy Barr Topinka did not live to read about all the memories and nice things said about her here. Seems like that happens too often.

  75. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:24 pm:

    - Arthur Andersen -

    So what did you do? Did you force some director’s to drive them or dump them on the CMS motor pool?

  76. - Ginhouse Tommy - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:39 pm:

    Rich was there for last call at a party. Somethings never change. lol. Rich i know all this snow is bad but the Grateful Dead concert countdown continues.

  77. - DuPage Dave - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 5:49 pm:

    Who can forget the magic moment when Big Jim cut the ribbon and flew open the doors to the relocated and upgraded McCuddy’s Tavern, hard by the “New Comiskey” park? Or the way he flung the door open and led the crowd to the bar, downing the ceremonial first pint in one hearty gulp?

    Oh sorry, that’s fiction. Jim never followed through on that promise. Jerry Reinsdorf got his new park at state expense and the little guy go nothing, Thompson’s word of honor to the contrary.

  78. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 6:23 pm:

    Arthur Andersen, one of the old Thompson Checkers wound up as the warden’s car at Dwight. I was told that the state thought the Checker would be well received by the Gov because of their ample leg room, but I guess not.

  79. - persecuted - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 6:27 pm:

    Wish that he was running for potus.

  80. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 6:47 pm:

    RNUG, no one would take them from the motor pool lol.

    Actually they were kept around for a short time for assigned use but no one wanted them. They ended up serving as IDOC prisoner transport vehicles.

  81. - RNUG - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 6:58 pm:

    - Arthur Andersen -

    Thanks. I vaguely thought they ended up at IDOC but I wanted to double-check my memory.

  82. - Hawkeye in Illinois - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 6:59 pm:

    Big Jim rolling out a wad of photos of new baby Samantha for lady factory workers during a campaign stop in suburban Chicago for the 1978 election; Big Jim dropping by the old Statehouse Press Room Unannounced many times to drink a cold one from Joe and Luke’s fridge while kibitzing with reporters; Big JIm sitting on a live horse in the Rotunda outside his Capitol office; Big Jim sending troopers to buy eggs at all the White Hen Pantries in Springfield for early morning end-of-session Mansion party in early 80s before 24-hour supermarkets; so many more– brilliant, witty guy who actually understood the purpose of state government and had a real genius for communicating with ordinary people, fellow politicians and the news media that has not been matched since.

  83. - Newsclown - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 8:20 pm:

    I was always impressed by his intellect and quick grasp of the essentials of any situation. He showed on many occasions, the ability to improvise a better speech on the fly, than the ones handed to him by his staffers. He would have made an excellent VP or maybe even a Justice, but the window closed on him too fast. We got Dan Qualye instead, and as usual, Indiana is inferior to Illinois, LOL.

    I remember his fondness for architecture, how proud he was about saving the Dana-Thomas House, and the hard dealing he did to retrieve the scattered custom-made interior furnishings for it. He was also very proud, describing the new SOIC building by Helmut Jahn as “a physical representation of open, transparent government.” We all know that unfortunately, the building had a few teething troubles and the stewardship of it after Thompson was poor. But he had the right vision, and vision has been sorely lacking since his last term of office.

  84. - Now What? - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 8:26 pm:

    Big Jim walking in the Lisle 4th of July parade in the late 1970’s. I was 11 and my baseball team walked in the parade with him. After, he talked to us about how great baseball is and to keep our grades up. Miss these leaders.

  85. - Anonymous - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 8:56 pm:

    Back in the 80s at a college buddies wedding reception the Governor was attending another reception in the same hall. He graciously posed for photos with friends when asked. I remember he cracked a few jokes. I had always heard he was known to be approachable. Very true.

  86. - Eyewitness Ed - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 9:55 pm:

    -Dupage Dave -

    As someone who happened to be there during those McCuddy’s negotiations, here is the real scoop. The McCuddy’s folks tried to hold up the entire deal by playing hardball, rejecting numerous eminently reasonable offers, and Thompson was too nice to tell the press what jerks they were behind the scene. Another testament to his adult sensibilities, as a previous commenter noted. Thanks, Rich, for allowing this tribute to a real gentleman and an Illinois legend. Here’s to you, Big Jim.

  87. - Mike Czaplicki - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 9:59 pm:

    You’ll be happy to know Mark DePue and I are in the middle of an oral history of Thompson’s administration for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s series on Illinois Statecraft. We’re collecting a lot of good stories, including from the man himself, some of which were mentioned above. If you’d be interested in going on tape to contribute a story, please let me know: Can’t promise we can use them all, but it would be great to get some regular folks (or as regular as can be given the self-selecting nature of the Capitol Fax readership).

    Sorry to solicit here, Rich, but it seemed appropriate given the timing.

  88. - Finally Out (and now very glad to be) - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 10:59 pm:

    A few of us guys went out to California for a week to watch the Illini in the Rose Bowl in ‘84. One day we decided to take in Disneyland and were walking across the parking lot to go in. We saw Gov. Thompson walking with a group and we yelled “Hey, Big Jim!” He heard us and stopped to say Hi. Talked a bit about the game (we got hammered) and told us to have a great vacation and be careful.

    A few years later after I had moved to Springfield, some co-workers asked me to go along with them to an event at the convention center which the governor was attending. We were standing in a group when he entered the building and was walking down the aisle near us. Don’t know why but I yelled “Hey, Big Jim” again. My friends cringed, but he hesitated and looked at me, then said “Disneyland, Rose Bowl, right?” Then he followed by saying “Wasn’t a very good game for us was it? Thanks for coming tonight.” And then walked on.

    My friends were speechless and I was probably out of line at that event, but we are all human. I have a lot of respect for him, in that he isn’t afraid to show he can be an average guy.

  89. - Wordslinger - Thursday, Feb 26, 15 @ 11:27 pm:

    AA, the old bondo-packed Checker Cabs cracks me up. Someone thought that was a good idea?

    I’m guessing it was someone who knew the Feldmans, who had all the Chicago medallions back in the day and unloaded their clunkers on fheir “friend.”

  90. - Big Mouth - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 2:44 am:

    Seeing him win the Pickle award at the Grid Iron dinner, with the wonderful Jim Skillbeck holding it straight out from his groin - and hanging with Skilby backstage in his trailer at the State Fair, with the hot tub and partying like mad. Those WERE the days. God rest Jim Skilbeck’s soul - he MADE Jim Thompson and was a great and colorful character under the Dome.

  91. - Black Ivy - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 7:52 am:

    An unforgettable force of nature. A Bipartisan activist. A legal scholar. A legend. Cheers, Governor Thompson! Perhaps one day we might renovate the James R. Thompson Center to reflect your epic and historic tenure…we’ll see…

  92. - Newsclown - Friday, Feb 27, 15 @ 12:20 pm:

    I was always impressed by his intellect and quick grasp of the essentials of any situation. He showed on many occasions, the ability to improvise a better speech on the fly, than the ones handed to him by his staffers. He would have made an excellent VP or maybe even a Justice, but the window closed on him too fast. We got Dan Qualye instead, and as usual, Indiana is inferior to Illinois, LOL.

    I remember his fondness for architecture, how proud he was about saving the Dana-Thomas House, and the hard dealing he did to retrieve the scattered custom-made interior furnishings for it. He was also very proud, describing the new SOIC building by Helmut Jahn as “a physical representation of open, transparent government.” We all know that unfortunately, the building had a few teething troubles and the stewardship of it after Thompson was poor. But he had the right vision, and vision has been sorely lacking since his last term of office.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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