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.
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