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Paul Powell of Illinois

Paul Powell of Illinois

A Lifelong Democrat

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Robert E. Hartley


Paperback (Other formats: NLEB)
264 pages, 6 x 9, 13 illustrations


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About the Book

Paul Powell emerged from the hill country of southern Illinois to serve in state government from 1935 until his death in 1970. His political tenure included three terms as Speaker of the Illinois House, four terms as minority leader, and two terms as secretary of state. The sponsor of hundreds of bills, he worked tirelessly for his constituents in southern Illinois. He also worked tirelessly to promote his own interests.

In this first political biography of Powell, Robert E. Hartley follows the money. He tells how this man of humble origins and meager means amassed a world-class political and financial base. Part of that story is the disclosure of a personal fortune that boggled minds, including the unbelievable yarn of the $800,000 cash found in the hotel room following Powell's death.

Powell never earned a state salary of more than $30,000 per year, yet in the last year of his life, his federal income tax return showed an income of more than $200,000. At his death his estate totaled $3.2 million, and, when settled in 1978, was worth $4.6 million, including nearly $1 million in racetrack stock.

Following Powell's story, Hartley takes us deep into the Illinois political world of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, a time when politicians were on an "honor system" regarding their financial holdings. This was before disclosure of political contributions, before computer records, and before public meetings laws.


Robert E. Hartley was a journalist for the Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers in Illinois from 1962 to 1979. Currently residing and writing near Denver, he is the author of Charles H. Percy: A Political Perspective and Big Jim Thompson of Illinois.


"The story of Paul Powell, as Hartley tells it, is readable and entertaining. It casts much light on the level of political morality of Powell's time. As no one else has, he leads the reader to an understanding of the question that has been asked over and over since 1970: 'Where on earth did Powell get all that money?' Hartley leads up to the matters of Powell's death and the bizarre events surrounding the finding of millions among his effects in a skillful and dramatic fashion. He sustains the suspense until the end."—David Kenney, author of A Political Passage: The Career of Stratton of Illinois