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Big Jim: 14 years of Gov. James R. Thompson


Lincoln Presidential Library, Chicago History Museum reflect on career of state’s longest-serving governor

By any measure, Gov. James R. Thompson was a big deal for Illinois.

Join the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Chicago History Museum on June 12 for “Remembering Governor ‘Big Jim’ Thompson,” a look back at Thompson’s 14 years in office.

“Even in retirement, Gov. Thompson casts a long shadow. He was the state’s longest-serving governor, with a larger-than-life personality to match his six-foot-six-inch frame,” said Dr. Mark DePue, head of the Lincoln Presidential Library’s Oral History Program. “He was a skilled politician who seemed to relish every legislative battle and political challenge.”

The free event takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the Chicago History Museum’s Robert R. McCormick Theater. Registration is required.

DePue will moderate a panel conversation featuring four of Thompson’s top aides: Deputy Gov. Jim Fletcher, press secretary David Gilbert, budget director Bob Mandeville, and policy director Paula Wolff.

“Jim Thompson is a fascinating man and an important figure in Illinois history,” said Russell Lewis, executive vice president and chief historian at the Chicago History Museum. “This dream panel of key people from his administration will offer provocative stories about the challenges he faced and the colorful way he did it.”

“And we’re proud to honor a former Chicago History Museum board member,” Lewis added.

Visit for program details.

Thompson, 81, plans to attend the event. A former U.S. attorney, Thompson was elected governor in 1976 and held office until 1991. He later served as chairman and CEO of the law firm Winston & Strawn from 1993 until 2006. He was also a member of the commission that investigated the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

The Gov. Jim Thompson Oral History Project can be found at


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is dedicated to telling the story of America’s 16th president through old-fashioned scholarship and modern technology.

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history. The museum uses traditional exhibits, eye-catching special effects and innovative story-telling techniques to educate visitors. For more, please visit


The Chicago History Museum is situated on ancestral homelands of the Potawatomi people, who cared for the land until forced out by non-Native settlers. Established in 1856, the Museum is now at 1601 N. Clark Street in Lincoln Park, its third location. As a major museum and research center for Chicago and U.S. history, the Chicago History Museum strives to be a destination for learning, inspiration and civic engagement. Through dynamic exhibitions, tours, publications, special events and programming, the Museum connects people to Chicago’s history and to each other. To share Chicago stories, the Museum collects and preserves millions of artifacts, documents, images and other items that are relevant to the city’s history. The Museum gratefully acknowledges the support of the Chicago Park District on behalf of the people of Chicago. 

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories