My former boss, Illinois Times president Fletcher “Bud” Farrar, writes an appreciation of the last Democratic governor before Rod Blagojevich: Dan Walker (1973-1977), the Montgomery Ward executive whose report on the 1968 Democratic Convention demonstrations described them as a “police riot” and who in 1972 shed his corporate togs, donned a red bandana, and walked the state on an anti-Daley platform to upset Paul Simon for the Democratic guernatorial nomination in 1972.
Southern Illinois University Press will issue Walker’s memoir, The Maverick and the Machine, in May, which doesn’t shy away from the story of his doing federal time after leaving office (on a charge unrelated to his tenure as governor).
Farrar reflects on the Walker administration’s well-known confrontational nature and a personal trait of perhaps equal significance, which he glimpsed during a summer stint at the Southern Illinoisan newspaper in Carbondale: “Just before Walker and his walk entourage showed up to be interviewed, our publisher supplied all of us in the newsroom with red bandannas to put around our necks. Poor Dan, who had no sense of humor, couldn’t figure out whether we were expressing solidarity or making fun.”
A book with one of the worst titles in history, Mostly Good and Competent Men, chronicles Illinois governors up through Blago. Farrar seems to hope that history will eventually apply at least this description to Walker’s term. (FWIW, probably the Walker crowd’s most famous alum is now lieutenant governor of Illinois.) What do you think? And if you’re old enough to remember his governorship, how did you manage to navigate the web to get here?