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Son of Southern Illinois

Son of Southern Illinois

Glenn Poshard’s Life in Politics and Education

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Carl Walworth with Glenn Poshard


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
340 pages, 6 x 9, 26 illustrations


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About the Book

A life of principles, service, and faith  

This first biography of Glenn Poshard traces the life of a young man who rose from rural poverty in Southern Illinois to become a United States congressman and president of the Southern Illinois University system. This profound portrait unveils a life and career dedicated to making higher education affordable and improving the quality of life for the community of Southern Illinois.  

Beginning with his childhood in a two-room home near Herald, Illinois and the early, tragic loss of his sister, this biography navigates Poshard’s service in the military, his time as a state senator and United States congressman, his run for governor, his years at Southern Illinois University, and the establishment of the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children. Intimacies of his personal life are disclosed, such as his struggles with and treatment for depression, his passion for education, and the lasting bonds he formed with his teachers. His unpopular decision to refuse PAC donations is also highlighted, along with the work that went into sponsoring the Illinois Wilderness Act, and his relationship with civil rights activist John Lewis. Glenn Poshard’s efforts for the Wilderness Act designated Southern Illinois’s famous Garden of the Gods as a National Wilderness Preservation System, which continues to attract visitors from around the world. 

Poshard’s path from poverty was riddled with hardship, but his perseverance and family values ultimately allowed for longstanding personal and civic growth. From an admirable work ethic to a steadfast commitment to problem-solving, this biography illuminates the life and accomplishments of an impressive and generous leader.


Carl Walworth worked for thirty-one years as a reporter, editor and later publisher in the newspaper industry in Illinois. He currently is the library director at the Mattoon Public Library. He is the author of The Mayor of Moultrie Avenue and a researcher for Lake Sara, the Hidden Jewel in America’s Heartland. Walworth has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois in Urbana and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University.  

Glenn Poshard has been at the forefront of educational and economic development initiatives at the regional, state, and national level for more than five decades. His lengthy service-oriented career has included time as a soldier, teacher, Illinois state senator, a member of the U.S. Congress, chairman of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, and President of the SIU system. The Poshard Foundation for Abused Children, a volunteer organization founded by Poshard and his wife, Jo, has served the needs of vulnerable children in Southern Illinois for nearly 25 years.


“Southern Illinois is in Glenn Poshard’s DNA. My friend and former colleague, Glenn made a life of politics and public service: soldier, state senator, congressman, candidate for governor and president of Southern Illinois University. Every step of the way he was faithful to his values and his heritage even at the cost of popular support. More than any person I know, Glenn Poshard has given a life of commitment to the families of Southern Illinois. When the political mapmakers carved up this unique part of our state, he refused to be any part of dividing the land of his birth. Now at a time when our nation is so bitterly divided, Glenn Poshard showed us that you can be true to your beliefs and still be respectful of your political adversaries. The voters even when they disagreed with him knew he was an honest, caring man in a world desperately searching for public servants to believe in. He and his wife Jo continue their lifelong commitment to those who need a helping hand with their Poshard Foundation for Children.”—Senator Dick Durbin 

“Glenn Poshard has lived a remarkable life. He grew up in poverty-stricken southeastern Illinois, focused on education and rose in the political world to serve his home region in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Congress. During his decade in Congress, Glenn worked to improve infrastructure and boost educational services. As a son of Southern Illinois, he had experienced the importance of rural health care and, as a Congressman, he focused on programs and funding to save rural hospitals. His is an American story worth reading.”—Governor Jim Edgar

“Nobody represents the quintessential great American success story better than Glenn Poshard, and nobody represented Southern and central Illinois in the halls of power better than Poshard. From his birth and growing up in a hard-working blue-collar family in White County to a career in education and a second career in public service, progressing from Southern Illinois to Springfield, and then Washington, and back to Southern Illinois Poshard compiled a distinguished career in both fields. Very few, if any, biographies of prominent politicians are this candid, resulting in a unique and important political biography.”—John S. Jackson, editor of Southern Illinois University at 150 Years 

“I first met Glenn Poshard in 1982, two years before he was elected to the Illinois Senate. Glenn was the first senator from Southern Illinois to chair the Illinois Senate Labor Committee. Glenn’s tireless dedication to working men and women and their unions has not wavered in the forty years I have known him. One example of his lasting impact on our region is the thousands of union jobs created by the construction of the Olmsted Locks and Dam, the largest project ever completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These union jobs, a total of more than 45 million labor hours, were the direct result of Glenn’s efforts.”—Edward M. Smith, president and CEO of Ullico 

“It is difficult to estimate the influence of Glenn’s life on vulnerable and ‘faceless’ children whose lives have been dignified and enriched through his vision, love, and service. His early experience with the orphaned children of post-war Korea was a defining step toward placing him on a firm path to serving similarly vulnerable children back home. I arrived at the Song Jook Orphanage shortly after Glenn left Korea, but the pattern of service he and his colleagues established continued to bless us children and other soldiers who volunteered their time and gave of their heart. I am grateful that decades later, our lives intersected again and I am able to celebrate and deeply admire his life-long example. His life is truly a testament that those who grow through service are magnified, and humble hearts combined with genuine love can lead to great accomplishments.”—Jini Roby, professor emeritus social work, Brigham Young University