City plans monument to 3 Illinois governors; 1 jailed, another acquitted

KANKAKEE (Illinois News Network) — An Illinois city plans to erect a monument to three governors who lived there despite controversy and one’s time spent in a federal prison.

Kankakee County officials have given permission for a small monument to be built on courthouse property saluting three governors native to the area: Sam Shapiro, Len Small and George Ryan.

The wall will be paid for by sales of engravable bricks to be placed nearby. Dondi Maricle with the Woman’s Club of Kankakee said the governors had a prominent place in state and local history.

“We wanted to do something like the ketchup bottle that Collinsville has,” she said. “Something that is unique to the city that no one else has. We’ve had three governors. No one else can say that.”

Several Illinois governors have come from Chicago since 1900.

Kankakee’s plan is not without controversy. Gov. Ryan went to prison on corruption charges. Small was acquitted of embezzlement in 1922 and made a number of controversial pardons as governor.

A few members of the County Board voted against allowing the structure to be placed at the courthouse, according to the Daily Journal.

Maricle said their dark moments shouldn’t define them.  

“I’m sure that everybody in their lifetime has made mistakes,” she said. “No matter what, good bad or ugly, it’s our history.”

She hopes to have the wall completed in October.

Gov. Ryan is currently visiting Cuba with a host of Chicago and Illinois residents.