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Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois

Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois

Paul Powell, Clyde L. Choate, John H. Stelle

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Robert E. Hartley


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
208 pages, 6 x 9, 11 illustrations


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About the Book

Winner, ISHS Annual Award for a Scholarly Publication, 2017

Many people are unaware that from 1945 to 1975, downstate lawmakers dominated the Illinois political arena. In The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois, Robert E. Hartley details the lives and contributions of three influential southern Illinois politicians, Paul Powell, Clyde Choate, and John Stelle. He describes how these “dealmakers” were able to work with Democrats and Republicans throughout the state to bring jobs and facilities to their region. Using a variety of coalitions, they maintained downstate political strength in the face of growing Chicago influence.
Hartley traces the personal histories of Powell, Choate, and Stelle, shows how they teamed up to advance a downstate political agenda, and reviews their challenges and successes. Beginning with an account of early experiences, including the battlefield courage that earned Choate the Medal of Honor as well as Stelle’s World War I experience and later entrepreneurship, the book continues with an exploration of the groundwork for their collaborative legislative agenda and their roles in the growth of Southern Illinois University and the passage of income tax legislation. Hartley reviews the importance of Powell’s relationship with Governor Stratton, Choate’s leadership of the 1972 Democratic National Convention and his relationships with Governor Walker and with Chicago interests. 
The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois is a vivid, straightforward tale of fighting in the legislative chambers, backstabbing behind the scenes, and trading special favors for votes in pursuit of not only personal gain but also the advancement of a regional agenda.


Robert E. Hartley is the author or coauthor of nine books, including Battleground 1948: Truman, Stevenson, Douglas, and the Most Surprising Election in Illinois History and Paul Simon: The Political Journey of an Illinois Original. He was a journalist for Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers in Illinois from 1962 to 1979 and served as executive editor of the Toledo Blade and as publisher of the Journal-American in Bellevue, Washington.


“Veteran journalist Hartley captures neatly the ‘do good and do well’ political culture of southern Illinois through incisive portraits of three of the region’s most colorful and effective political leaders.”—Jim Nowlan, coauthor of Illinois Politics and Fixing Illinois
“They certainly were not choir boys, but these colorful politicians from southern Illinois harmonized politically to make some beautiful music for their part of the state—among other things, landing millions and millions in state dollars to create a major university. Robert Hartley, with painstaking craftsmanship, profiles three men—one a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient—who enhanced their region and their net worth as they took southern Illinois to the zenith of its clout in Springfield.”—Mike Lawrence, retired director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

“Author Robert E. Hartley, in his latest book, has told a political story that he says a lot of people in Southern Illinois may find shocking. It can feel like ancient history now in more ways than one. But it wasn’t all that terribly long ago that Southern Illinois lawmakers teamed up to dominate the political landscape in Springfield, he writes. The book focuses on three men who were the major driving forces of the action for a roughly 30- year period from 1945 to 1975. Hartley provides an up-close look at their reign, and . . . chronicles how Powell, Choate and Stelle—small- town men with big ideas, and even bigger personalities—worked in Springfield to change the face of Southern Illinois
For this region, the most noted legacy of that era of political deal-making remains SIU’s transition from a small teacher’s college to a major university. While the vision of expansion has been credited to SIU President Delyte Morris, he could not have accomplished the feat without the assistance of his political friends willing to wheel and deal with lawmakers from the populous Chicago region. When it came to raining state dollars onto SIU, Powell, and Choate “delivered the goods,” Hartley writes.”—Molly Parker, The Southern Illinoisan
:The Dealmakers of Downstate Illinois succeeds in presenting three Illinoisans who were able to work together with political acumen and resourcefulness to better their region while in office. Their stories represent a refreshing perspective on how legislators can achieve policy change, which is difficult to find in the modern political environment. Individuals with an interest in Illinois politics or American political history will enjoy this work."--Austin Trantham,  Jacksonville University