The business of politics in Illinois is just as natural as discussing one of our beloved sports teams. The major players in the political arena receive just as much free media airtime with their latest proclamations, resolutions and weekly press conference announcements. As an elected official, if you can last past the latest soundbite, you are fairly holding your own ground.
Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. has achieved above-average strides as one of the longest-running state legislators in the Senate. With 36 years of public service, the elder statesman retired in 2009 — at the start of his protégé, President Barack Obama’s first term in the White House.
On Monday, the University of Illinois at Chicago hosted an inaugural reception of one of the university’s highest honors — the dedication of political papers by Jones.
According the UIC, Jones said he decided to entrust his papers to UIC because of its role as the only public research university in the city.
Speakers on hand included UIC’s Chancellor, Michael Amiridis; University Librarian, Mary Case; Founder of HistoryMakers, Julieanna L. Richardson, former Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn and introducing his father, State Sen. Emil Jones III.
As he hugs his son and takes the podium, Jones smiles and jokingly admits beating Quinn at basketball growing up. “He couldn’t beat me because he couldn’t jump.” But, never far from current affairs of the state, Jones doesn’t hold his tongue on the current state budget stalemate.
He addresses the small group of 60 or so former colleagues and friends.
“We need a governor who really cares about people. We wouldn’t have this problem with the budget if Gov. Quinn was in office. Sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the right story. The governor presents his budget to the legislature, the legislature accepts some of it or they don’t accept any of it. For the last two years, nothing in writing has ever been presented to the legislature about the budget,” he said.
“The governor presents the budget, not give a speech! No budget has been presented in writing to the legislature and that’s why you have a stalemate.”
The donation of Jones’ papers contains over 50 linear feet of documents, photographs and memorabilia focused on his career in the Illinois Legislature.
A great deal of the collection includes his time between 1980 to 2000, including his correspondence with then Illinois State Sen., Barack Obama. Obama has credited his growth and political identity through his guidance by Sen. Emil Jones Jr.
Jones’ political documents will join the papers of Mayor Richard J. Daley, who was involved in the building the UIC campus.
The Special Collections and University Archives house rare books, printed materials, manuscript collections and other important historical literature collected from other mayors, state and local public officials, judges, along with political organizations.
Never missing a beat and in familiar fashion that has made him one of the more respected and beloved Illinois public officials, the former State Senate president turns to Chancellor Amiridis and says, “You have my papers. I may give you some more but I have to screen them first,” he laughs.