Secretary of State —
an Activist For

When then-Secretary of State Alan Dixon moved to the U.S. Senate, Edgar was appointed to fill the vacancy in early 1981. In 1982 and 1986, Edgar won the office on his own and was the secretary of state until 1991.

Edgar’s 10-year tenure as Secretary of State marked an era of activism in the office unparalleled in the state’s history.

Drunk Driving Laws

Edgar was best known for his crackdown on drunk driving as he became a national leader in the traffic safety areas.

As Secretary of State, Edgar championed the cause to eliminate drunk driving. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve on the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving. He pushed for and passed the first sweeping laws against drunk driving in 1982. This law eliminated the 90-minute waiting period in which a driver could decide to take a breath test. In addition, it allowed a driver’s license to be revoked if the driver refused to take a breath test.

Later in 1980’s, Edgar pushed for even tougher laws for DUI by setting the minimum .10 blood alcohol level in Illinois.

When Edgar came into office, Illinois had the weakest laws in the nation related to driving under the influence.  When he left Office M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) recognized Illinois as a leader in the nation for combating drunk driving.

License Plates

As Secretary of State, Jim Edgar ended the practice of having Illinois license plates manufactured at out of state prisons.  Instead, in 1983, he awarded the business to Macon Resources, Inc., a Decatur social service agency that provides services to people with mental, physical and developmental disabilities.

The agency operates a wide range of services for adults with disabilities, including life skills training, vocational training, job placement and volunteerism, along with the operation of nine group homes. Nearly 60% of the agency’s workforce is made up of people with disabilities who work on Illinois’ license plate manufacturing.  This practice continues today.

Mandatory Auto Insurance

Among his major legislative achievements as Secretary of State was the passing of a mandatory auto insurance law to cover liability should a driver be found at fault in an auto accident.

Illinois was one of the first in the nation to pass mandatory auto insurance.

Literacy & Libraries

Edgar also pioneered the state’s literacy program, substantially expanded its support of libraries and launched an initiative that focused attention on Illinois authors. He led the efforts to build the impressive Illinois State Library Building located across from the Capitol in Springfield.

It is a monument to his love of books and his commitment to establishing, maintaining and strengthening libraries