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James Robert Thompson

Gov. James Robert Thompson

  • January 10, 1977 - January 14, 1991
  • Republican
  • May 8, 1936
  • August 14, 2020
  • Illinois
  • University of Illinois, Washington University, Northwestern University Law School
  • Married Jayne Ann Carr; one child
  • NGA Chair


JAMES R. THOMPSON was born in Chicago. He attended the University of Illinois in Chicago, Washington University in St. Louis, and received a law degree in 1959 from Northwestern University. He was a faculty member of Northwestern from 1964 to 1969. He also served as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, as chief of the Department of Law Enforcement and Public Protection, and as first assistant to the Attorney General. He received the Outstanding Federal Prosecution Award of the Chicago chapter of the Federal Bar Association and the National Law and Social Justice Leadership Award. He was elected governor in 1976 for a two-year term and reelected in 1978, 1982, and 1986 for four-year terms. In 1981, he was appointed co-chair of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime and was the member of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Federalism. He was named Man of the Year by Goodwill Industries in 1982 and was named Swedish American of the Year by the Vasa Order of the Americas in 1986. He was national co-chair of the Campaign to Protect Our Children in 1986 and a member of the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality from 1987 to 1988. He also served as vice chair of the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission. He chaired the National Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, and the Council of Great Lakes Governors.

Recent Illinois Governors