||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
|38th Governor of Illinois|
January 14, 1991 – January 11, 1999
|Preceded by||James R. Thompson|
|Succeeded by||George Ryan|
|35th Illinois Secretary of State|
January 12, 1981 – January 14, 1991
|Governor||James R. Thompson|
|Preceded by||Alan J. Dixon|
|Succeeded by||George Ryan|
July 22, 1946 |
|Religion||American Baptist (ABCUSA) |
James Edgar (born July 22, 1946) is an American politician who was the 38th Governor of Illinois from 1991 to 1999. Previously he served as Illinois Secretary of State from 1981 to 1991. As a moderate Republican in a largely blue-leaning state, Edgar was a popular and successful governor, leaving office with high approval ratings. Though still popular, he surprised many by retiring from elected office after his second term as governor, claiming that heart problems he had while governor were not a factor in his decision.
Early life and education
Edgar was born in Vinita, Oklahoma and was raised in Charleston, Illinois. He graduated from Charleston High School and attended Wabash College for one year before graduating from Eastern Illinois University, also in Charleston.
A Republican, Edgar was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1976 and re-elected in 1978. In April 1979, Edgar resigned his state House seat to accept an appointment from Governor Jim Thompson as his legislative liaison. In early 1981, when then-Secretary of State Alan Dixon moved to the U.S. Senate, Thompson named Edgar to fill the vacancy. He won the office on his own in 1982 and 1986 and served until 1991. Edgar married Brenda Smith of Anna, Illinois; they have two children, Brad and Elizabeth.
Governor of Illinois
In 1990, Edgar won the first of his two terms as governor, winning the Republican primary against Steve Baer, and then winning a close race against his Democratic opponent, Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan. In 1994, he defeated conservative challenger Jack Roeser in the Republican primary, and was reelected by a wide margin carrying all but one of the state's 102 counties in the general election against his Democratic opponent, State Comptroller and former state senator Dawn Clark Netsch.
In the elections of 1992 and 1994, the Republicans succeeded in capturing both houses of the state legislature and all statewide offices, putting Edgar in a very strong political position. He advocated increases in funding for education along with cuts in government employment, spending and welfare programs. Due to his moderate views that appealed to Republicans and Democrats alike, he has been considered one of the most respected and popular governors in Illinois history, having been reelected by a large margin and leaving office with approval ratings well over 60%. He was also the last elected Illinois governor to not face criminal charges until Pat Quinn. Edgar served as the Chairman of the Midwestern Governors Association. By the time he left office in January 1999, Governor Edgar had eliminated the backlog in payments of the state's bills, given the state a surplus and reduced the size of state government. He had also fought for and won passage of historic legislation on the way Illinois schools are funded and had overhauled the state's child welfare system.
Controversies as governor
On February 28, 1991 Edgar declared March 13 as "L. Ron Hubbard Day" in honor of the late founder of the Church of Scientology. He stated that Hubbard's "writings on the mind and human spirit have helped millions of people lead better lives. His literary works have enriched the lives of many readers" and "has solved the aberrations of the human mind." However, Edgar issued a short one-sentence proclamation on March 26, 1991, stating that his original proclamation was rescinded.[page needed]
One particular incident during his second term served to taint Edgar's tenure in office. During his second term, the relationship between his re-election campaign and Management Systems of Illinois (MSI) came under federal scrutiny. MSI, Edgar's largest campaign contributor, was granted a contract that cost an estimated $20 million in overcharges. Eventually, a number of both private citizens and state employees were convicted in federal court. Edgar was never accused of wrongdoing, but he testified twice, once in court and once by videotape, becoming the first sitting Illinois governor to take the witness stand in a criminal case in 75 years. In those appearances, the governor insisted political donations played no role in who received state contracts.
When U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald announced in spring 2003 that he would not run for re-election in 2004, the Bush administration approached Edgar about running for the seat. Due to his popularity that still exists today, Edgar was seen as a very formidable Senate candidate.
Edgar seemed likely to enter the race, but he suddenly announced he would not seek the seat, saying instead that he was giving his wife an early Mother's Day gift. His medical problems were also cited: he had recently undergone heart surgery. The Senate seat eventually was won by Democrat Barack Obama.
After months of speculation that he was once again considering getting back into politics, Jim Edgar announced at a press conference on September 30, 2005, that he would not challenge Governor Rod Blagojevich in 2006. Tearfully, Edgar said that he has reached the end of his political career.
The Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, near Virginia, Illinois, is named in Edgar's honor.
Edgar is a distinguished fellow of the Institute of Government & Public Affairs at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. Edgar also serves on the Board of Directors of Friends of the World Food Program, a non-profit that supports the UN World Food Program and global hunger relief efforts.
Edgar gave the commencement speech at the University of Illinois College of Law graduation in May 2008.
In a Chicago Tribune op-ed after the arrest of then-Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, Edgar said that citizens need to get involved and pay attention to the actions of government officials, and noted that most news media covered investigations of Blagojevich in 2006, yet Blagojevich was still re-elected.
Edgar was named the honorary chairman of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration at Eureka College, President Reagan's alma mater. To open the Reagan Centennial year in January of 2011, Governor Edgar delivered the keynote speech at the concluding dinner of the "Reagan and the Midwest" academic conference held at Eureka College.  In September of 2011, Governor Edgar helped dedicate the Mark R. Shenkman Reagan Research Center housed in the Eureka College library. 
As former chairman of the board of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation, Edgar underwrote the costs of the traveling trophy for the annual Lincoln Bowl tradition started in 2012. The Lincoln Bowl celebrates the Lincoln connection with Knox College and Eureka College, two Illinois colleges where Lincoln spoke, and is awarded to the winning team each time the two schools play each other in football.
- Illinois Blue Book 1991–1992.
- "Illinois Governor Jim Edgar". Governor's Information. National Governors Association. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
- "Illinois Governor Surprises By Retiring From Politics". New York Times. 1997-08-21. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- Illinois Blue Book 1997–1998.
- Phoenix Gazette, March 30, 1991[page needed]
- Time Magazine 5/6/1991[page needed]
- Chicago Times, August 24, 2000, By Ray Long, Tribune Staff Writer. Accessed: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2000-08-24/news/0008240442_1_msi-co-conspirators-jim-edgar
- "Jim Edgar". Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois: Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
- "About Us". Washington, D.C.: Friend of the World Food Program. Retrieved 2009-01-02.[dead link]
- Edgar, Jim (2008-12-10). "The state of Illinois". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- Gov. Edgar reacts to the allegations against Gov. Rod Blagojevich – link to speech, op-ed, and interview about the 2008–2009 Blagojevich scandal; from the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs
Alan J. Dixon
|Illinois Secretary of State
1981 – 1991
James R. Thompson
|Governor of Illinois
1991 – 1999
|Party political offices|
James R. Thompson
|Republican Party nominee for Governor of Illinois