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In memoriam

Saturday, Aug 15, 2020

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* Gov. Jim Thompson’s family…

The Thompson family is mourning the loss of a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Jim Thompson’s love and devotion to his family mirrored his lifelong dedication to his beloved State of Illinois.

His guiding principle in public and private life was to help people and do what he could so they could have an opportunity to succeed. In that process, he achieved big things for Illinois that matched the life he lived.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Thompson family said it will be impossible to hold a public wake that would accommodate all those who would want to express their condolences and respect for the Governor and his life. A memorial service will be scheduled at a later date. Other arrangements are pending.

* Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider…

Today the Illinois Republican Party mourns the loss of a great leader in Illinois’ storied history. Governor “Big Jim” Thompson exemplified a state government that worked, treated others with legendary kindness, and created lasting positive change for Illinois over his 14 years as Governor. He helped send a corrupt Governor to jail as a prosecutor, rebuilt the state’s infrastructure, saved the White Sox, and presided over a healthy and prosperous Illinois. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jayne and his family at this time.

* Governor JB Pritzker…

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.

* Shirley and Michael Madigan…

The passing of Jim Thompson brings great sadness to our family. He was a cherished friend. Jim Thompson should be credited with the modernization of Illinois government as best illustrated by the structure that bears his name. His pioneering commitment to the arts strengthened the fabric of our state. He was a hard-nosed political figure and a compassionate leader. We were honored to serve with him. On behalf of our children, Lisa, Tiffany, Nicole, and Andrew, we offer our deepest sympathies to Jayne and Samantha. We offer them prayers of comfort and strength in these sad times. Illinois is a better place because of Jim Thompson’s work.

* Illinois Senate President Don Harmon…

No one enjoyed being governor more than Jim Thompson. Our state lost a true giant, and he will be missed. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

* House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

Governor Thompson was a friend, mentor and an exemplary statesman who loved Illinois. He was a hands-on Governor who loved the process of getting things done in Springfield, and his accomplishments still stand strong today. Our state was fortunate to have such a dedicated leader.

* Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady on the passing of former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson.

Jim Thompson was a man of integrity and a man of many talents who always put the people of Illinois first. As a former US Attorney, he worked tirelessly to root out public corruption in Illinois. As our governor, he strived to find common ground and build consensus. That ability to bring people together, despite a difference of opinion, is a testament to the type of leader he was and is a reminder of what can be accomplished when Illinoisans work together for the betterment of our state. My thoughts and prayers are with Jayne and his family during this difficult time.

* Attorney General Kwame Raoul…

Governor Jim Thompson dedicated many years to serving the people of Illinois and working toward making our state a better place to live and work. My thoughts and prayers are with Jayne Thompson and all who knew and loved Governor Thompson.

* Comptroller Susana Mendoza…

Former Governor Jim Thompson leaves a proud legacy of working across party lines to make Illinois a great state. Thank you for your service and for keeping the White Sox in Chicago, Big Jim. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family.

* Terry Cosgrove at Personal PAC…

Governor Thompson was a proud pro-choice leader who vetoed 34 of 34 anti-abortion bills that came to his desk from the General Assembly. Accompanying one such bill he vetoed in 1977 was a stinging rebuke of how cruel it was to end Medicaid funding of abortion for low-income women. Forty years later, in 2017, HB 40 corrected this injustice, which included getting rid of the “trigger” law that stated abortion would become illegal the day Roe v. Wade was overturned. Governor Thompson was on the right side of history.

* Secretary of State Jesse White…

I served as a member of the Illinois General Assembly while Jim Thompson was our state’s governor. He was a Republican and I’m a Democrat but we worked together for the betterment of the people of Illinois. I’m saddened at his passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and many friends.

* Sheila Rock, wife of the late Illinois Senate President Philip J. Rock…

On behalf of our family, we offer our deepest condolences to Jayne and the entire family of Governor James R. Thompson. Phil and “Big Jim” worked well together to pass historic legislation benefiting the people of the State of Illinois. Sharing 14 years in leadership, they may not always have seen eye-to-eye, however, they had the utmost respect for each other and worked well together; a Republican and a Democrat interacting as statesmen and always enjoying a beer and a laugh at the conclusion of each session.

* Winston & Strawn…

We are deeply saddened by the passing of our former Chairman, friend, and colleague, Governor James R. Thompson. The Governor led the firm as Chairman for 13 years, overseeing a period of tremendous growth. The impact of his leadership was profound. He had an unshakeable belief in the importance of doing the right thing that helped establish a culture for the firm that still guides us today. He led the effort to diversify the firm and provide opportunities for all to succeed.

The Governor was a legal lion – arguing more cases in the Illinois Supreme Court than any lawyer other than Abraham Lincoln. Whether it was his ongoing zeal to improve the city where he was born and raised, his fight to break the chokehold of corruption in Chicago politics in the 1970s, or his determination to find justice for victims of 9/11 as a Presidential appointee to the 9/11 Commission, the Governor always led with his principles. Illinois, Chicago, and Winston & Strawn have lost a true leader.

The Governor made an indelible impression on everyone around him, as shown here in a video tribute to the Governor at the firm’s 2015 Partners Conference, thanking him for his many years of service and friendship to the firm. We extend our sincere condolences to Governor Thompson’s family.

* Former Gov. Pat Quinn…

“From the time he signed the Political Honesty Initiative – to stop legislative conflicts of interest, double dipping, and advance pay for politicians – when he was first running for Governor in 1976, Gov. Jim Thompson stood for cleaning up corruption in Illinois politics and government.

“As US Attorney, he brought to justice scores of corrupt public officials. As Governor of Illinois for a record 14 years, Jim Thompson always remained true to his conscience and convictions.

“Jim Thompson generously helped me when I was Governor of Illinois from 2009 to 2015.

“For the past four decades, he has strengthened the annual conference of US midwest states and the people and businesses of Japan, an international legacy of friendship that created and maintained thousands of jobs in Illinois.

“The people of Illinois owe a permanent debt of gratitude to Gov. James R. “Big Jim” Thompson.

“May God rest his eternal soul.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

7 Comments
  1. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 8:01 am:

    RIP to Gov. Thompson and condolences to his family and everyone who knew him. Didn’t follow state politics back in his day but he seemed like a moderate. He enacted collective bargaining for public employees, so different than the voices of today who shout out for cuts and taking workers’ rights away.


  2. - Nitemayor - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 8:35 am:

    I was in attendance at Fishers Banquet room in Belleville for the Exemplification of the Southern District of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus. The Worthy Master, Jim Gentile, had arranged for Governor Thompson to speak. There was an elderly man sitting at the organ. Big Jim was running late, crowd was getting restless when Jim suddenly announced “The Governor of the Great State of Illinois:James R. Thompson!” Right on cue, the organist broke into a lively rendition of “Happy Days Are Here Again”. Big Jim didn’t miss a beat.
    They don’t make em like that anymore R.I.P.


  3. - West Sider - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 9:36 am:

    Governor Thompson was a man who could say “yes”- he could make a deal. Some of them were of lasting benefit to the State of Illinois. Some of them were disastrous. A bunch of them were about art and architecture- both the Thompson Center and the restoration of FL Wright’s Susan Dana Thomas house. He was a conservative- in the very best sense- Jim Thompson conserved beauty.


  4. - DuPage - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 10:46 am:

    RIP Big Jim. I thought he was a good governor. He had integrity. I met him once totally by chance. The one time ever the family and I went to the Kane County Flea Market, he had a table there. Shook his hand and had a nice chat.


  5. - Boomer - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 1:44 pm:

    Jim Thompson was a man of the upmost integrity. He was a very smart person with real street sense.
    People were glad to be around him. He had a brilliant legal mind and a quick wit
    I first met him in 1975 when he ran for his first term. It was not the GOP’s best year - post Nixon. I remember his first inaugural speech when he said, “The war is over” He wanted to end the battles that Governor Walker had with the legislature to work with them and make Illinois better. He did that for the next 14 years and did it well. I was around for quite a bit of that time both as an appointee and a member of the legislature.
    I have a lot of stories that prove my points but those are for another day. I think the one thing He would like is to be remembered as someone who raised the standard in Illinois for public service. That includes the media, the public, as well as all those who devote time to a position of public trust. Jim Thompson should serve as our role model whether you knew him or not.


  6. - JoanP - Monday, Aug 17, 20 @ 7:36 pm:

    If he had done nothing else, saving the Susan Lawrence Dana House would be legacy enough.


  7. - Payback - Tuesday, Aug 18, 20 @ 10:44 am:

    The last time I saw Jim Thompson, he was in the federal courtroom during former Gov. George Ryan’s trial. Jim walked in and shook George’s hand, publicly showing his (and his law firms) support for his old Lt. Governor/ political buddy. From Wikipedia article:
    “Ryan’s defense was provided pro bono by Winston & Strawn, a law firm managed by former governor Jim Thompson. The defense cost the firm $10 million through mid-November 2005.[49] Estimates of the cost to the firm as of September 2006 ranged as high as $20 million. Ryan served as Thompson’s lieutenant governor from 1983 to 1991.”

    I’m not sure about Thompson’s reputation as an opponent of corruption.


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