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91 4. Glory Years for Downstate TheIllinoisGeneralAssemblysessionsfrom1953to1963arehistorically significant for deals and results that favored downstate interests . The overwhelming political strength of Chicago and Cook County developed after that decade. Today’s observers might find statements about the earlier days hard to digestgiventhedirectionofcontemporarylegislativeactivitiesandexecutiveleadership .Thisisevenmoreextraordinarywhenstudyingthereasons for results in the earlier years. Much of the progressive record in state government depended on bipartisan behavior and coalitions that cut across geographicregions.ChicagoDemocratsneededdownstateDemocratsand sometimesRepublicanstopasstheiragendas.Downstateleadersfaredbetter if they could peel off some Chicago votes to go with other factions. No politicalpartyorfactioncouldforceitswillontherestofthestateforlong. Anotherfactorinfluencingoutcomesinthe1950sandearly1960swas the change in Chicago leadership. Richard J. Daley ascended to mayor of Chicagoin1955.Whilehisimprintwasimmediate,hetookafewyearsto graspthecontrolsafterthereapportionmentofthelegislaturethatfavored Chicago and Cook County. During that time Republican governor William Stratton and Speaker Warren Wood and Democratic leaders such as Paul Powell and Clyde Choate maintained important leverage. A critical element in outcomes was Powell’s election as Speaker of the House in 1959and1961,whichprovidedamomentarycountertoChicagointerests. 92 Glory Years for Downstate Powell, Stratton, and other realistic politicians could see the future, and they knew time was running out for downstate. The Near-Miracle of SIU In this period of dynamic change brought on by the roaring postwar economy and veterans and their families, pressure mounted rapidly on the state’s higher education system and the sources of revenue. Illinois depended almost totally on sales taxes to support operations. Out of this mix of turmoil and opportunity came the unpredictable—and in some ways improbable—story of Southern Illinois University (SIU). Miracles rarely happen in state politics. While SIU’s rise from 1946 to 1961 now looks explosive and preordained, it took a huge effort, some luck, forceful advocates, and time. The building blocks of progress are easy to see in retrospect. The arrival of veterans after World War II and an improvedeconomyprovided anatural increaseinstudentpopulation, even though SIU remained a “teachers college.” With a new president, Delyte Morris, and state government recognition in 1947 of the school as a “university,” hard work still remained. For the state to provide sufficient funds for real and anticipated growth, SIU needed prestige, and that required an expanded curriculum to include professions such as engineering ,medicine,dentistry,andlaw.Anacceleratedbuildingprogram, featuring offices and student residences, would be necessary to accommodate an expanding school population. If accomplished, an impressive campus would lure even more students. Asthe1950sdecadeopened,theUniversityofIllinois(UofI)satatop the hill of state higher education as a formidable giant. Retention of that position depended on maintaining a tradition of distinction and excellence .Muchofitsprowessreliedontheinfluenceofitsgraduatesworking in state government and on loyalists scattered across the state who could be rallied to a cause at a moment’s notice. Beneath the U of I in stature were all the other four-year state colleges: Southern, Eastern, Northern, Western, and Illinois State, originally designated as teachers colleges. SIU had begun to emerge from the pack with legislative recognition as a universityandwithaboardoftrusteesdevotedsolelytotheschool.Those advancements provided the first view of a threat in Urbana-Champaign. However, the U of I stood firm for its prerogatives and did not intend to Glory Years for Downstate 93 share. Increasingly, SIU partisans identified the U of I as an obstacle that had to be attacked head on. SIU powerhouses applied pressure on critical pieces of growth strategy : budget increases, buildings, and curriculum. In terms of clout and energy,theyhadthebasescovered.PresidentMorristookthepublicroute, testifying, making speeches, and issuing public statements. Powell, with Choateathisside,handledHouseproceedings,andPowellusedhispositiononthelegislativebudgetarycommissiontoconfrontUofIpartisans .1 Joining Powell and Choate in Springfield was a recent graduate of the U of I College of Law named John S. Rendleman, who quickly became a valuable asset. Morris had appointed him SIU’s acting legal counsel and lobbyistin1951,arolethatputRendlemanatMorris’ssideandinPowell’s pocket for much of the university’s heyday in Springfield. As Powell’s personal lawyer and executor of his estate, Rendleman was a factor in Powell’s life and death.2 Senator Crisenberry, an essential resource, had a firm grip on issues in the state Senate. Running interference, whether as a member of the SIU trustees or as Powell’s spear-carrier, was Dr. Leo Brown of Carbondale and a host of other volunteers. The common mission and coordinated efforts combined to elevate SIU in the statewide higher education picture. As an indication of SIU growth after World War II, enrollment reveals a part of SIU’s story, as it applied pressure for legislative action. The beginning student enrollment for the Carbondale campus totaled 2,734 in 1949 and by 1957 had reached 8,311 including students at centers in East St. Louis and Alton.3 While the U of I...


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