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New Book About Gov. Len Small Who Wrote the Book on Illinois Corruption

Thomas F. Roeser 7 October 2009 2 Comments

I can hardly wait for the mailman to come because author Jim Ridings from downstate Illinois has…at last…written the definitive book on the most egregious political crook ever to have served public office in Illinois-one who easily tops Blago, George Ryan and exceeds the general lumping together of all the mayors of Chicago plus outsiders like Earl Long of Louisiana, Aaron Burr of New York, sleazes like U. S. Senators Billy Lorimer and Roland Burris, alderman like Bathhouse John, Hinky Dink Kenna, Pat Nash and Orville Hodge and Boss William E. Tweed of Tammany Hall. Unless you are a genuine Illinois political scholar you will be surprised to learn it is one Len Small [1862-1936], a Kankakee banker who ran a fair that rivaled the official county one, was part-owner of two railroads and owned a 700-acre farm.

Moreover he was a journalist, publisher of the Kankakee Republican.

To get the book you must run, not walk, to your computer keyboard and order it from Amazon.com where you can get it for $24.95.

When I was a boy, my father showed me a copy of The Tribune which he nurtured from the mid-twenties. The paper had, to its credit, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in printers’ ink defaming…justly…this viper. And when he was reelected, the paper’s editorial page said:

It seems Len Small was reelected.

Thereupon followed at least an acre of white space, signifying the paper had utterly nothing good to say about him or his victory. Jim Ridings, a Hersher, Illinois author, has written the book that I am eagerly awaiting entitled: Len Small: Governors and Gangsters. Believe me the usual history of governors, written by Bob Howard entitled curiously Mostly Good and Competent Men is outrageously bland and skips over much of the real story of Small…but we have Ridings to thank for this obviously great work of scholarship.

I cannot begin to tell you from what I heard from my father about how brilliantly corrupt this guy Small was…and I’m dying to read all about him myself. Here’s a brief synopsis: as governor he-

–Wrecked the civil service system and hired his friends, the crooked-er the better.

–Sold thousands of pardons and paroles as governor-to gangsters, white slavers.

–Was indicted on a charge he embezzled more than $1 million while state treasurer before his term as governor…but beat the charges and was acquitted…after which he

–Paid off the jurors with state jobs. A former cab driver from Antioch was named deputy game warden. Two others were made state highway patrolmen, The jury foreman got a job as drainage inspector at Stateville. But then

–Hired two gangsters who bribed the jury for Small; they refused to testify and were jailed for contempt-but Governor Small quickly pardoned them.

–He sued to recover interest money on state funds he kept for himself after which he kept for himself…following which he

–Vetoed an appropriation to pay for prosecution of the civil suit against him, also vetoing the entire $250,000 the AG was planning to use for law enforcement…but he wasn’t all bad because he

–Did pay the state back $650,000 he owed but

–Got the money from assessing salaries of state employees and from squeezing road builders.

Had enough? Buy the book and once read it thank God that our crooks have been minor league next to him. And thanks to Jim Ridings for writing it!

Amazon link here


Tom Roeser is the Chairman of the Editorial Board at the Chicago Daily Observer

disclaimer Roeser was never a member of Gov. Small’s staff


  • Dan Kelley said:

    There must be something in the water in Kankakee…

    Of course, to be fair, Governor Sam Shapiro, the lieutenant governor who briefly succeeded Otto Kerner as the chief executive of the state, left office without being the focal point of a scandal.

  • Michael Masrdikes said:

    This then, must account for the long run of Democratic rule.

    Small, an overt Republican, tramatized Illinois.

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