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Jesse White becomes longest-serving Illinois secretary of state

May 29, 2014
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Online Staff Report

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (D) will become the longest-serving secretary of state in Illinois Friday, May 30, surpassing James A. Rose who served from 1897 to 1912. Rose was first inaugurated on January 11, 1897. White was first inaugurated 102 years later on the same day in 1999.

“I am proud to have had the privilege and honor of serving the people of Illinois for the last 15 years,” said White, who is serving his fourth term. “I pledged I would not use this office as a stepping stone to a higher office, and I have honored that commitment.”

While the two secretaries of state served in different centuries, Rose and White share some similarities. Both were born in Illinois, attended Illinois public schools and began their careers as teachers. Additionally, both served as county elected officials (Rose was Pope County’s state’s attorney and White held the office of Cook County Recorder of Deeds).

The secretary of state’s duties were limited during Rose’s tenure when compared to today. Over the years since Rose served, the office has accumulated additional responsibilities, including registering businesses, regulating securities, registering lobbyists, maintaining driver records, auditing automobile dealerships, overseeing school bus drivers and administering the Illinois Organ/Tissue Donor Registry.

White, 79, succeeded George Ryan (R), who was Illinois’ governor from 1999-2003 before being imprisoned for racketeering and bribery offenses committed while he was secretary of state.

Before entering politics in 1974, White played minor-league baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization, founded the Jesse White Tumbling Team and was a teacher and administrator in the Chicago Public Schools system. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army and Illinois National Guard.

Born in Alton, Ill., and raised in Chicago, White is a 1957 graduate of Alabama State University, where he was a star basketball and baseball player. He was inducted into the Chicago Public League Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Alabama State Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

White faces Republican Michael Webster in his November bid for a fifth term.

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