Governor James R. Thompson is Illinois’s longest serving governor. Thompson studied at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his law degree from Northwestern University in 1959. Prior to becoming governor, he worked in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, taught at Northwestern Law School and was appointed by President Nixon to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. As a federal prosecutor in the early 1970s, he obtained a conviction against former Governor Otto Kerner, Jr., for his use of improper influence on behalf of the racetrack industry. He also tried and convicted many of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley’s top aides on various corruption charges. First elected to governor in 1976, he weathered four elections and served for a total of fourteen years. During this long tenure, he developed a reputation as a moderate Republican who was a fiscal conservative, with Build Illinois being his administration’s signature achievement. Once out of office, Thompson remained very active for the next three decades, serving as chairman for a major Chicago-based law firm, working on President George W. Bush’s 9-11 Commission, and much more.
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