One Good Man Can Make A Difference

In 1990, Jim Edgar ran for Governor and won, becoming the 38th Governor of Illinois. He would go on to be considered one of the most respected and popular governors in Illinois history

Time and time again, Edgar abandoned the one-size-fits-all approach. His steady hand on the helm allowed him to govern effectively by matching his promises with performance.

The record shows his fidelity to his values, principles and sense of public service spurred dramatic changes in the governmental landscape of Illinois and enriched the lives of millions of Illinoisans.

Impact by the Numbers

jobs created during the last six years of the Edgar administration

families moved from welfare to jobs

increase in funding for public schools


decrease in infant mortality

“It has been a great honor to have served as Governor of the state of Illinois where we worked to create a bright future filled with opportunity for all” – Jim Edgar

Early Years

Meeting The Challenge

Due to his moderate views that appealed to Republicans and Democrats alike, he has been considered one of the most respected and popular governors in Illinois history, having been reelected by a large margin and leaving office with approval ratings well over 60%.

As the 38th Governor of Illinois, he imposed a fiscal discipline that allowed the state to deal with severe budget problems, combat a revenue-draining recession and provide record increases in funding for education while holding the line on taxes.

He initiated the most massive reorganization of state government since the early 1900s and downsized the bureaucracy for the first time in anyone’s history.

A Partner For Life

During her eight years as Illinois’ First Lady, Brenda Edgar was a full partner to the Governor in his public and political life. She served as the Governor’s ambassador and advocate on issues to improve the lives of Illinois women and children. In 1997, she was named one of “100 Women Making a Difference” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Brenda Edgar served as a role model for Illinois women. She and the Edgar administration helped women and children improve their lives and meet the challenges of the 1990s.

On the World Stage

A Statesman for All Time

Governor Jim Edgar’s official portrait hangs in the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Illinois State Capitol.  It was painted with Edgar standing in the Library of the Governor’s Mansion. Brenda Edgar’s photo sits on the mantle behind him, making Edgar the only governor to include his wife in his official portrait.  Also, in the painting of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in the background, Edgar had the artist, William Chambers, include the Edgars’ two grandchildren at the time as audience members.

His Legacy Lives On

Jim Edgar’s legacy lasts far beyond his years as governor.

Following his two terms as Governor, Jim Edgar has become a distinguished statesman who continues to advocate for good government policy in Illinois and across the Nation as well as cultivate new leadership in public service.

He served as a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs and at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.

He established the Edgar Speaker Series at his alma mater, Eastern Illinois University, which focuses on bringing leading experts on state government to address current issues and historical implications to the student body. 

His hallmark was the establishment of The Edgar Fellow Program at the Univeristy of Illinois where every year, up to 40 emerging leaders receive lessons, networking opportunities, and training inspired by Edgar’s unique philosophy and leadership style

The Edgar Fellow Program stresses problem solving over politics, compromise over competition, and real solutions over personal grand-standing. Fellows are nominated across political and cultural boundaries, and learn to work together to achieve real change.

Since it’s founding, the Edgar Fellow Program has helped over 390 fellows — including numerous current and former senators and representatives — make meaningful change in the political sphere.