Remembering Governor Jim Thompson

Join the State of Illinois in remembering our longest-serving governor: Jim Thompson. Add your name to this virtual guestbook and share your favorite memory of Big Jim.

Governor Thompson in car during parade


​James R. Thompson, known to Illinoisans as Big Jim, served as the state's governor from January 1977 to January 1991, a total of fourteen years. Thompson first came to prominence when he was U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and especially when he successfully prosecuted former governor Otto Kerner on corruption charges. During his long tenure as governor, he developed a reputation as a moderate Republican who was a fiscal conservative, but also a friend of labor and a builder, with Build Illinois being his administration's signature achievement. He traveled the world promoting Illinois and its products. He also had a passion for history and antiques, and thus created the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in support of those passions. Following his many years in office, he worked in the private sector, serving as the chair of the important Chicago law firm, Winston and Strawn for many years. He also found time to serve on the 9/11 Commission. Thompson maintained a high profile and was a highly popular figure, and he will always be remembered and revered as one of the titans in the history of state government.

 Recent Signatures

  • 08-19-2020 02:33 PM Governor JB Pritzker (Chicago)
    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.

  • 08-19-2020 05:19 PM Jessee Dagen (Chicago)

  • 08-19-2020 04:53 PM Cynthia A. Given (Olney)
    Gov. Thompson served all of Illinois. He was a man of (and for) the people. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.

  • 08-19-2020 04:52 PM Sonia Hernandez-Cortes (Chicago)
    I never met him personally, but I did live in Chicago while he was governor. Chicago was a better place to live. May god bless you and your family. REST IN PEACE.

  • 08-19-2020 04:49 PM Melisse Trentz (Champaign)
    I met Governor Thompson as a teenager in the early 80's. Very kind, took the time to talk with me even though he was very busy. We didn't worry about Illinois in the Big Jim days. Rest in Peace, Governor.

  • 08-19-2020 04:46 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)
    When I was in eighth grade I went to Springfield, Illinois for the National Spelling Bee. One of the highlights of our trip was to get to tour the capitol building. We went by Governor Thompson‘s office and he greeted each of us as we passed by and welcomed us to Springfield. A little later on I saw him as he was leaving the building. I asked him if I could take his picture. “He smiled and said of course”. Then he turned to my friend and said, “could you take our picture please?” “Then he asked me if I wanted to go into politics someday”? I will never forget how this busy man took his time with young people, taking pictures and asking what was important to us. I still have that picture and every time I look at it I think of a politician who really cared.

  • 08-19-2020 04:36 PM sloan's The ( Duquoin)
    Duquoin state Fair

  • 08-19-2020 04:19 PM Charles Gentert (Lostant )

  • 08-19-2020 04:18 PM Debbie (Niles)
    My dad owned a deli in Lakeview in the 80’s. Big Jim would go into the store and visit with my dad. Guessing somewhere there is a picture of him signed to my dad Jerry. He will be missed!

  • 08-19-2020 04:18 PM Kathy Eggert (VERNON HILLS)
    Governor Thompson was a governor of the people. He cared about our state and the people who lived there. God bless you all during this difficult time.

  • 08-19-2020 04:00 PM Patty tuft (Fox lake)
    My mother sent an invitation to my sisters graduation from I.S.U. He wasn’t able to attend but sent a card with best wishes

  • 08-19-2020 04:00 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)

  • 08-19-2020 03:58 PM Ryan Gleason (Chicago)
    Indebted forever for SAVING OUR SOX!

  • 08-19-2020 03:48 PM Joyce C Burger (Chicago)
    I met Gov. Thompson once at an event on UIC Campus. He was a 'big' guy. But he was also friendly, charismatic, and easy to approach. He was a great governor whose shoes have proved impossible to fill. My sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

  • 08-19-2020 03:44 PM PAUL TITUS (Bradley)
    I have 2 memories of the governor. First was when he was campaigning for the very first time for the office. He was at a WIU football game and the Peach Blossoms dressed him up as one of them. He looked great, cheering on the Leathernecks in his red wig and toilet plunger! Then he visited my worksite, the ISP Forensic Lab in Maywood, and I got to shake his hand and explain how a critical piece of instrumentation worked. He was a good man, and my condolences to his family.

  • 08-19-2020 03:44 PM Marybeth Eads (Champaign )
    Our friend, Mary Frances Fagan, enjoyed her time with Mrs. Thompson and the Governor. He respected and worked with Republicans, Democrats and Independents for the good of Illinois.

  • 08-19-2020 03:38 PM Bonnie (Conkwright) Blackburn (Blue Island)
    When I was in 8th grade I went to Springfield Illinois for the state spelling bee contest. One of our f

  • 08-19-2020 03:37 PM Levi Austin (Texico)

  • 08-19-2020 03:35 PM Leon Wallace jr (Burnham)
    Sending prayers and condolences to the family. I was working for the county and watching the Thompson center being built. It was a great site to see. I enjoyed going to the Thompson center when it was finished. God bless.

  • 08-19-2020 03:32 PM Eugenia Cutler (South Holland )
    Rest in peace Governor Thompson. Grateful for your dedicated service to our state. Prayers for the family.

  • 08-19-2020 03:32 PM Jane Grisham (Eureka )
    Our high school band was supposed to play at his inauguration when a snow storm hit. We ended marching inside the armory. I followed him after that. I thought he was a great governor.

  • 08-19-2020 03:30 PM Lady Glen (Chicago)
    The only Republican I ever voted for.

  • 08-19-2020 03:20 PM Thomas L. Malone (Chicago )
    Governor Thompson was one of my favorite Governor. RIP Big Jim.

  • 08-19-2020 03:16 PM Mary Giddings (Naperville )
    Back in the early 80’s I worked at Helene Curtis. He would be in and out visiting Mr. Gidwitz. We would be waiting to get in the elevator and people would say we can’t get in that’s the Governor but he always looked friendly so I stepped on. I started meeting up in the elevator and he was so nice and if he was at the building and didn’t see me in the elevator he would stop by my desk to say hi! He did so much good for our state. God Bless him his family🙏🏻

  • 08-19-2020 03:12 PM Thomas L. Malone (Chicago)
    Governor Thompson was one of my favorite governor. RIP Big Jim.