Henry Horner

From June ’07 Spotlight: Chicago attorney Charles J. Masters (aka “Chuck”) has just published a fascinating new biography of Illinois governor Henry Horner. To learn more, I attended a book signing event held at the Barnes & Noble at DePaul Center on Thursday April 26.

“Henry Horner was born to an affluent Jewish family in 1879 in Chicago,” Chuck began. “He was an average student, but he had an interest in Abraham Lincoln growing up. He read a lot of books about Lincoln, and we can see, as he gets older, the influence that Lincoln may have had as one of his male role models in life. He thought about being a journalist, going into the family business, but he decided he liked the law.”

“His law practice was successful; he was known in the city as a guy of integrity and honesty, and at age 35 he was nominated to be probate judge with the Cook County Circuit Court. It was a somewhat corrupt bureaucracy at the time. He went in there and cleaned it up. He was a very methodical man, a workaholic, and he became a prominent figure in Chicago.”

“The 1920s were great, and then, in October 1929, the stock market crashed and the party was over. People were genuinely afraid: Did the great American experiment fail? Chicago’s mayor was Anton Cermak, and it was his job to select the slate for the 1932 general election, and he thought about this judge, Henry Horner. Now he was aware Horner was a Jewish man, and he was also aware that there had never been a Jewish governor in any state in American history. But Cermak understood also that this man’s sterling reputation would play well both north and south. The ’32 election happened, Horner won, Roosevelt came in, and the Democrats took over.”

You’ll have to read Master’s excellent book to find out what happened next!

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