A digital special section of | Subscribe

Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson

Illinois’ 37th governor | 1977-91

Technically, Gov. Jim Thompson didn't attend the UI's Urbana campus. But he put in at least a semester's worth of time here during his 14 years running the Land of Lincoln.

“I attended the University of Illinois at Navy Pier — Harvard on the Rocks — but my favorite campus spots were Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall.

"I signed the 21-year-old drinking bill on the field at the stadium — very unpopular reception — but along with Willie Nelson, I brought the first Farm Aid to the stadium.

"I would fly from Springfield to the Assembly Hall, don the warpaint and cheer on the Illini as governor. Used to get complaints from other Midwestern governors whose students wanted to know why they didn’t wear their school colors.”