Paul Powell (politician) Information

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Paul Powell
31st Secretary of State of Illinois
In office
1965 – October 10, 1970
Governor Otto Kerner Jr.
Samuel H. Shapiro
Richard B. Ogilvie
Preceded by William H. Chamberlain
Succeeded by John W. Lewis Jr.
56th & 58th Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
January 7, 1959 – January 9, 1963
Preceded by Warren L. Wood
Succeeded by John W. Lewis Jr.
In office
January 10, 1949 – January 8, 1951
Preceded by Hugh Green
Succeeded by Warren L. Wood
Personal details
Born(1902-01-21)January 21, 1902
Vienna, Illinois, U.S.
DiedOctober 10, 1970(1970-10-10) (aged 68)
Rochester, Minnesota, U.S.

Paul Taylor Powell (January 21, 1902 – October 10, 1970) was a Democratic politician from Illinois, and Illinois Secretary of State from 1965 until his death in 1970, after which he was discovered to have been corrupt and became known for his saying "There's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one." [1]

Political career

A member of the Illinois legislature since the 1930s,[ citation needed] Powell was the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1949 to 1950, and again from 1959 to 1963. [2] In 1959 Powell, a Democrat, was elected Speaker by a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and downstate Democrats against Joseph De La Cour, the candidate of Richard J. Daley who had majority backing within the Chicago-dominated Democratic caucus. [2][ circular reporting?]

Powell was elected Illinois Secretary of State in 1964. [2] The following year, he was investigated by grand jury for pushing legislation favorable to a horse racing company that he obtained stock in, but nothing came of it. [1] During his tenure, practice was that any[ citation needed] payments made to the Secretary of State's office were made out to simply "Paul Powell". Unsuspecting Illinois residents thought they were writing personal checks for license plate registration. [3]

Death, scandal and shoeboxes

Powell died on October 10, 1970, in Rochester, Minnesota, as an outpatient of the Mayo Clinic. [1] Some newspapers, such as The Pantagraph of Bloomington, wrote disparaging editorials about Powell immediately after his death, alleging corruption, and were criticized for it.[ citation needed] However, the media criticism of Powell would soon prove to be accurate.

Powell's chief assistant Nicholas Ciaccio claimed to have found Powell's body, but it turned out later that Ciaccio had not been in Minnesota at the time; to the contrary, shortly afterwards, after hearing of Powell's death, Ciaccio was in Powell's Springfield office clearing out papers and other material. [4]

Although Powell's government salary was never more than $30,000 a year, shoeboxes, briefcases and strongboxes with over $750,000 in cash were found in his hotel suite residence at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, Illinois within days of his death. [1] [4] Another $50,000 was found in his office. [4] In his hotel room he also had 49 cases of whiskey, 14 transistor radios, and two cases of creamed corn. [5][ circular reporting?] When settled in 1978 his estate was worth $4.6 million, of which $1 million was racetrack stock [5][ circular reporting?] in seven Illinois racktracks. [4] A federal investigation determined that Powell had acquired much of his wealth through illegal cash bribes, which he received for giving noncompetitive state contracts to political associates. The State of Illinois received a $222,999 settlement from his estate; in addition, several state contractors were imprisoned for their roles in the affair. [4]

Powell in pop culture

Folk singer Steve Goodman wrote a song, "Paul Powell", describing Powell's career and death.


  1. ^ a b c d "Paul Powell's Nest Egg". Time. New York City. January 18, 1971. Retrieved October 12, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c McClelland, Edward (January 20, 2012). "The 12 Most Corrupt Public Officials In Illinois History: Paul Powell". Ward Room. NBCUniversal Media. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Suddath, Claire (December 11, 2008). "Illinois corruption". Time. Chicago, Illinois. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e Grossman, Ron (February 24, 2013). "From hero to bum in a flash". Chicago Tribune (online ed.). Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Aschburner, Steve (December 10, 2008). "Déjà vu: Growing up with Chicago pols in the 'Land of 10,000 Snakes'". MinnPost. Minneapolis, Minnesota. Archived from the original on April 6, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2019.

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
William H. Chamberlain
Secretary of State of Illinois
Succeeded by
John W. Lewis Jr.