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Question of the day

Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022

* SJ-R

Though it hasn’t received as much attention as the fiercely competitive race for governor, this election is the first in more than 20 years without Secretary of State Jesse White on the ballot.

Almost 24 years, and that’s just statewide. He was first elected to the House in 1974. I’m old enough to have covered a couple House vs. Senate softball games he played in. Man, was he good, particularly since he was in his mid-to-late 50s back then.

* The Question: Your favorite Jesse White memory?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - TheInvisibleMan - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:26 pm:

    For most people my age, our favorite memory of him is probably when the Jessie White Tumblers came to our grade schools - in the 80s.


  2. - Paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:29 pm:

    Watching him play in the House vs Senate game in the 70s when I was an honorary page. Bonus? My dad hit a home run in the game (although not off of Jesse!)


  3. - Sports Stooge - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:31 pm:

    I loved bringing my kids to the Howlett Building for trick-or-treating. He was always so friendly & accommodating to them and all the other kids.

    I also enjoyed spending some time with him on the day of President-elect Obama’s electoral college ceremony. Funny & welcoming as always.


  4. - AlfondoGonz - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:33 pm:

    When I got a letter from his office informing me my license was suspended for being caught using a fake ID /s


  5. - Arsenal - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:35 pm:

    “I’m a Cubs fan, a White Sox fan, and a Cardinals fan, but not necessarily in that order.”


  6. - FormerGOPer - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:38 pm:

    I’ll choose promising to sponsor a bill with Bill Black, to be called the Black & White Bill. As far as I know, it never happened.

    Yes, I’ve been around long enough to remember when he was in the House.


  7. - Moi - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:38 pm:

    Back in 1999…every time I happened to see him anywhere, he’d always talk to me in Spanish saying “My gente,” (My people) then shake my hand and say “remember me?” “I’m Jesus Blanco” (Jessie White.)…He’s an example of public service to follow. Thank you for your service, Jessie.


  8. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:40 pm:

    Seeing him and the tumblers at our 4th of July parade as a kid


  9. - JS Mill - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:40 pm:

    When I was a building administrator in a small central Illinois high school (enrollment then was around 300) Jesse came to our school to present a safe driving award to one of our student groups for their efforts to encourage safe driving. He spent two hours at our little school, presented the award to our students at an assembly, took pictures with everyone (including me, the one and only time I have asked for a pic with a politician) and spent time talking to all of us.

    He is what I always hoped public servants should aspire to be. Kind, funny, generous with his time, and a real down to earth person that could relate to everyone.


  10. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:47 pm:

    He showed up to my grade school with the Tumblers. I’ll never forget that.


  11. - ddp76 - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:53 pm:

    I have no idea if it’s accurate, but I *remember* the driver’s facilities getting more organized and friendly.


  12. - Steve - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:55 pm:

    I got to meet and talk to Jesse at my old health club. His office set up a drivers license renewal table at the health club. I was very appreciative of this, because it helped me and hundreds of people save a lot of time.


  13. - Matty - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 2:56 pm:

    First memory is when I moved to IL and established my IL driver’s license. I was amazed that that type office position was so emblazoned with a public official’s name, signature, and photograph. It seemed like such an overtly political display in a government office tasked with things like IDs, voting access, etc etc.

    I’m hopeful some of that quietly goes away with change in office holder…


  14. - Proud Papa Bear - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:04 pm:

    About 20 years ago I was at the state Special Olympics at ISU. I looked down a stadium corridor and there was Jesse White, wiping down mats before the performance. He didn’t delegate it. He didn’t make a show of it. As far as I know, I’m the only one who saw his servant leadership.


  15. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:05 pm:

    Seeing the Jesse White Tumblers putting on a show at 2nd & Capitol (the streets were closed off). Don’t remember if he was a Representative or Secretary of State, but he and those kids were amazing!


  16. - proudstatetrooper - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:07 pm:

    coming out of a late night club in Chicago around 2 am and he was coming in. I said what are you doing out. He replied what are you doing out. We both laughed and carried on.


  17. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:12 pm:

    I have two.

    I was in Peoria Labor Day weekend in 1998. George Ryan got mad at Al Salvi, and had told the Chicago Tribune that “Jesse White would probably make a better Secretary of State than Al Salvi.” Jesse was walking around Peoria showing everyone the Tribune story, and his face was so happy he looked like he’d just won the lottery. I don’t think I have seen anyone happier in politics in my life, not even when they won. I realize now the validation of “I am qualified” that I didn’t understand then.

    In 2000, I happened to be on the state plane with Secretary White flying from Springfield to Meigs. I told him I was going skydiving for the first time in a few weeks, and he talked to me about his time as a paratrooper and what not to do when you are jumping from an airplane, like we were just two guys sitting at a bar.

    He’s just a damn good guy.


  18. - The Snowman - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:14 pm:

    Two memories…about 2004, I stopped to gas up in Elgin and looking over I saw the Jesse White Tumbler van. Then I noticed it was Jesse pumping the gas! I approached him to say hello. Nice man. 2nd memory…was somewhere in Springfield and Jesse was at an event. There was a woman with him and he introduced her saying “This is Cookie!”. The way he said it was very funny.


  19. - Retired SEIU - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:22 pm:

    Bringing in folks like Candace Wanzo and Derrick Smith…that turned out well for his legacy.


  20. - jackmac - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:24 pm:

    Lasting memories of Jesse White come from my days as a sportswriter and the frequent viewings of the Jesse White Tumblers. White was almost always on hand to coach at their appearances. Great performances by his kids, of course, but my thoughts were also hopes that White’s positive influence set his kids up for success in life. If it hasn’t already been done, there’s a story to be told on White’s efforts. (Concurrently, he also ran a clean and largely efficient Sec of State office, quite the feat considering some of his predecessors).


  21. - Norseman - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:28 pm:

    Talking to him about the Cubs.

    He was truly a nice man who I admired.


  22. - ChicagoBars - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:29 pm:

    Getting on a JRTC elevator after a ILCC meeting and there was Secretary White with a paper grocery bag of paperwork and his briefcase. I did a double take and he deadpanned “I’m so old I’m my own bag man.”

    He didn’t know me from Adam. I got off the elevator dying laughing.


  23. - Retired SEIU - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:29 pm:

    You DO know Illinois State government criminal background checks only use Illinois State Court Records, and Ms. Wanzo was convicted in Federal Court? Right?


  24. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:30 pm:

    Retired SEIU, that was me, sorry. Bloody phone.


  25. - Groundhog Day - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:39 pm:

    I lived out of Illinois in the late 80’s. I could not believe how well the SoS office was organized and was working when I returned in 90. I was amazed.


  26. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:41 pm:

    When he put signs up in driver’s license facilities saying that the higher fees were Gov. Ryan’s fault, not his. Sorry, I can’t remember the name of that pork barrel project slush fund - funded with increased fees - Ryan got the GA to pass his first year in office.

    Also, seeing the Jesse White Tumblers one year at the State Fair Twilight Parade.


  27. - MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:48 pm:

    1) First saw the Jesse White Tumblers 32 years ago at halftime of a basketball game 580 miles away from Chicago. I was properly impressed, but never dreamed I would one day vote for him, much less campaign for him.

    2) Sec. White and Ed Farmer both signed as witnesses on my organ donor card. That was pretty cool.

    – MrJM


  28. - Midwesterner - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:50 pm:

    Talking with him about getting kids interested in sports as a career. This was not in the sense of being a pro athlete, but rather in professions including training, physical therapy aNd sports medicine as well as business-side opportunities such as sales and marketing.


  29. - Nuclear Bozo - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:52 pm:

    I met him in Springfield in the late 90s at a function. As I was introduced to him, he looked at my name tag and started speaking almost perfect Polish with me. I was quite impressed.


  30. - workingfromhome - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 3:53 pm:

    Was working for a Constitutional Officer in early 2000s and at the time me and several others had just worked with JW and some of his staff for some public event. I forget which.

    Fast forward months later, I’m out having dinner with my wife, SIL and BIL in Oak Park and in walks a couple ISP executive protection detail folks (who stick out like sore thumbs, you can’t miss ‘em). I see this, recognize immediately what’s happening and say to our group, hey I wonder who’s coming to dinner?

    Seconds later, in walks JW. He and his 8-10 person entourage walk past and take seats at a large table in the back of the restaurant. We resume eating.

    One of JW’s detail (whom I knew) comes over after several minutes and says, “Hey [my name], the Secretary wants to talk to you. Now.” Being a good state employee and generally a respectful citizen, when a Constitutional says they want to talk to you, you go talk to them.

    Go over to JW’s table and someone introduces me to him, reminds him of what our office and their office recently had done together, he shakes my hand, thanks me again for our collective work, and wishes me a pleasant meal. I say thank you, return to my wife, SIL and BIL. Who are gobsmacked.

    Little while later, JW and his party are leaving. JW makes a beeline over to our table (and no one else’s table, btw, it’s a Friday night and crowded) to shake my hand and say thank you again. I introduce him to my thoroughly stunned table guests, he shakes everyone’s hands, says “Hi, I’m Jesse White,” wishes us all a pleasant night and breezes out the door.

    To this day, my wife will say, “Remember that one time JW came over to our table to talk to *you*?” Crazy stuff. Love JW. A gentleman and a class act.


  31. - Furtive Look - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 4:08 pm:

    Seeing the Jesse White Tumblers at Quad City Downs.


  32. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 4:09 pm:

    I once lived several miles east of Springfield near a very small town that had a little tavern/restaurant that served great fried chicken once a week. The owner was locally involved, and did things like reward kids for good grades.

    She also had a giant Jesse White sign on the side of her building and kept it up after he’d won in 1998. In passing once, I told Secretary White about the owner, her good works and her JW sign and he said we had to go there for some chicken and told me to set a date.

    You should’ve seen the look on the faces of the people in that place when he walked in. I thought the owner was going to faint.

    This was a really small town and likely heavily Republican. Statewide politicians just never visited. But he spent time with everyone who came up to shake his hand.

    And he loved that chicken. He still mentions it on occasion.

    Needless to say, I could do no wrong in that bar after that.


  33. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 4:38 pm:

    I remember when the Jesse White Tumblers visited our high school 20 years ago, and Jesse participated as well. Amazing performance and our students loved it!


  34. - TJ - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 4:54 pm:

    Seeing Americans from the other 49 states utterly confused by the Jesse White Tumblers at the Obama inauguration, meanwhile Illinoisans were all, “This is perfectly normal, why are you all being weird about this?”


  35. - Friendly Bob Adams - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 5:00 pm:

    Can confirm that Jesse White was very friendly to all in the JRTC elevators. Also it was fun to watch him (until very recent years) do a couple of tumbling runs alongside the young people.

    Also agree with others that the office is quite professionally run under his leadership. Thanks for your service.


  36. - Just Sayin - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 5:35 pm:

    ==When he put signs up in driver’s license facilities saying that the higher fees were Gov. Ryan’s fault, not his. ==

    IIRC there may have been similar disclaimer signs after Gov. Blagojevich’s significant cuts to Jesse’s and the other constitutionals’ budgets in FY2004. Claiming that the cuts were not his fault, but were “imposed by Gov. Blagojevich.”


  37. - Just Sayin - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 5:37 pm:

    ==I could not believe how well the SoS office was organized and was working when I returned in 90.==

    That would have been in the tail end of the Secretary Edgar administration. Nine years before Jesse White became SOS.


  38. - yinn - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 6:27 pm:

    I’ve never met Secretary White in person, but became acquainted as well as enamored by him via a profile produced and aired by WTTW once upon a time. Now I recently read that my township snagged a visit by the “mobile DMV” that I didn’t know existed until it was scheduled. Talk about not resting on one’s laurels.


  39. - PMS - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 7:56 pm:

    Watching him do his lottery scratchy tickets at the candy store, ground level of the JRTC with his detail trying to hide him. We all know it’s him every-time and we give him the privacy he deserves.


  40. - West Side the Best Side - Tuesday, Jun 28, 22 @ 9:07 pm:

    I was running for an office in 1992 when he was running for Recorder of Deeds and would occasionally come across him on the campaign trail. He was always very pleasant and personable and very supportive of me. If he wanted to run forever I’d vote for him forever.


  41. - Frank Watson - Wednesday, Jun 29, 22 @ 7:56 am:

    I have enjoyed reading all these memories of Jesse White. I served with him in the house and played on those softball teams. He was very good. He loved to fish. I’ve had the opportunity to be with him in Canada fishing. Rain, shine, hot or cold he’s out there. Poker is a obsession also. Everyone loved Jesse. A very gracious man. He’s part of a vanishing breed in politics.


  42. - Frank Watson - Wednesday, Jun 29, 22 @ 7:56 am:

    I have enjoyed reading all these memories of Jesse White. I served with him in the house and played on those softball teams. He was very good. He loved to fish. I’ve had the opportunity to be with him in Canada fishing. Rain, shine, hot or cold he’s out there. Poker is a obsession also. Everyone loved Jesse. A very gracious man. He’s part of a vanishing breed in politics.


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