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Uncertain Tradition

Uncertain Tradition

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David Kenney and Robert E. Hartley


6 x 9, 28 illustrations


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About the Book

This sweeping survey constitutes the first comprehensive treatment of the forty-seven individuals—forty-six white males and one African American female—who have been chosen to represent Illinois in the United States Senate from 1818 to 2003. David Kenney and Robert E. Hartley underscore nearly two centuries of Illinois history with these biographical and political portraits, compiling an incomparably rich resource for students, scholars, teachers, journalists, historians, politicians, and any Illinoisan interested in the state’s heritage.  

An Uncertain Tradition:U. S. Senators from Illinois, 1818–2003 is a fresh and careful study of the shifting set of political issues occurring over time and illuminated by the lives of participants in the politics of choice and service in the Senate. Kenney and Hartley plot the course of the state’s varied senatorial leadership, from the state’s founding and the appearance of political parties, through the Civil War and its aftermath, and into the diverse political climate of the twenty-first century. From the notorious to the heroic, the popular to the pioneering, the senatorial roster includes such luminaries as “The Little Giant” Stephen A. Douglas; Lyman Trumbull, who served three terms in the Civil War era; “Uncle Dick” and “Black Jack,” also known as Richard Oglesby and John A. Logan; the “Wizard of Ooze” Everett Dirksen; and modern leaders such as Adlai Stevenson III, Paul Simon, and Carol Moseley-Braun. 

Kenney and Hartley offer incisive commentary on the quality of senate service in each case, as well as timeline graphs relating to the succession of individuals in each of the two sequences of service, the geographical distribution of senators within the state, and the variations in party voting for senate candidates. Rigorously documented and supremely readable, this convenient reference volume is enhanced by portraits of many of the senators.


David Kenney served in the cabinet of Illinois Governor James Thompson and is professor emeritus of political science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His books include Making a Modern Constitution, Basic Illinois Government: A Systematic Explanation, and A Political Passage: The Career of Stratton of Illinois. He has also served as the founding director of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency.

Robert E. Hartley is the author of Charles H. Percy: A Political Perspective, Big Jim Thompson of Illinois, Paul Powell of Illinois: A Lifelong Democrat, and Lewis and Clark in the Illinois Country: The Little-Told Story. He was a journalist for Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers in Illinois from 1962 to 1979.


An Uncertain Tradition not only tells the story of the Illinois senators, it also tells the story of the strengths and weaknesses of our system, reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of those who serve and lead us.”—Paul Simon, former U. S. Senator