Two-term Illinois attorney general Jim Ryan, former GOP gubernatorial candidate, dies at 76
When then-Gov. Jim Thompson tried to recruit Jim Ryan to run for Illinois Attorney General in 1985, just a year after Mr. Ryan was elected DuPage County State’s Attorney, Mr. Ryan said no , feeling that he was not ready yet. The cautious decision set Mr Ryan apart in a political landscape of often brash and ambitious figures.
James E. Ryan, Illinois’ two-term attorney general from 1995 to 2003, who twice unsuccessfully ran for governor, died Sunday “after several long illnesses,” according to a family statement published in the newspaper. DuPage Policy Log. He was 76 years old.
“Former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan passed away peacefully at his home on June 12, 2022, at the age of 76 after several lengthy illnesses,” the statement said.
“Ryan’s considerable accomplishments as a public servant and earlier as a Golden Gloves boxing champion were overshadowed by the inspiring power of his perseverance and strength by faith amid a series of tragedies and challenges. devastating personnel,” the statement said.
Current Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul paid tribute to Mr. Ryan on Sunday evening.
“Jim Ryan has devoted much of his career to public safety, first as DuPage County State’s Attorney and then as Illinois Attorney General, and I strive to follow his example,” Raoul said in a statement. “Jim’s leadership as Attorney General and his commitment to protecting all Illinois residents is something I have done my best to reflect since taking office.”
Mr. Ryan was a popular new face in Republican politics when he was encouraged to leave his law firm, Ryan & Darrah, and run for DuPage County State’s Attorney in 1984. He beat Republican incumbent Michael Fitzsimmons by 13,000 votes in the Republican primary election and claimed victory in the November general election.
Mr. Ryan, a resident of Elmhurst, remained state’s attorney for DuPage County from 1984 until 1994, when he successfully ran for attorney general.
In 2002, Mr. Ryan gave up a possible third term as attorney general and ran for governor, losing to Democrat Rod Blagojevich.
Mr Ryan ran for governor again in 2010 but lost in a six-way Republican primary to Senator Bill Brady. His later political career was encumbered by other prominent Illinois politicians bearing Ryan’s last name, who weighed down the name with negative political baggage.
A candidate named Jack Ryan had quit the 2004 Senate race after it was revealed he had visited sex clubs with his then-wife. Former Governor George Ryan was convicted of federal charges in 2006, and a 2009 poll showed that 19% of those polled thought Jim Ryan was the former governor. Another candidate, former Arlington Heights mayor James T. Ryan, dropped out of the race for Illinois attorney general in 1986 due to allegations that he had violent outbursts.
Mr. Ryan has also battled health issues. He was diagnosed in 1996 with stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and started chemotherapy. The disease returned in 2002 when he was the Republican candidate for governor.
Throughout his career, Mr. Ryan has been respected as a consensus builder who brought stakeholders to the table. Although some have complained that he governed in committee and moved slowly — Illinois under Ryan was only the 17th state to join a lawsuit in 1990 to recover tobacco industry damages — his supporters called it deliberative and thoughtful.
In 1997, Steve Neal, then a political columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote that Mr. Ryan had raised the profile of the attorney general’s office, in part by attacking toxic dumpers, polluters, online fraud and to gangs. As Attorney General, Mr. Ryan also helped found the Illinois Violence Prevention Initiative.
But Mr. Ryan has come under fire for his handling as state’s attorney of the 1983 murder case of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville, which he inherited from Fitzsimmons. In this case, three men were wrongly charged and, under Mr. Ryan’s watch, two – Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez – were sentenced to death. After Cruz and Hernandez’s convictions were overturned, Mr. Ryan’s office retried them. All three men were eventually released, but Cruz and Hernandez did not get out of jail until after Mr. Ryan left the office.
Critics argued that Mr Ryan should have dropped the charges as it became increasingly clear that another man, Brian Dugan, had committed the crime acting alone. Dugan eventually pleaded guilty to the murder and is serving a life sentence. In 2009, Mr Ryan apologized for ‘not getting a fair result’ in the case.
Mr. Ryan was born in Chicago. Later, her father Edward Ryan, a builder of modest homes, moved the family to DuPage County. As a teenager, Mr. Ryan was a Golden Gloves boxer in West Side gyms.
He attended St. Procopius Academy, now named Benet Academy, and then St. Procopius College, now named Benedictine University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1968. He received his law degree in 1971 from Chicago-Kent College. of the law.
Beginning in 1976, Mr. Ryan served as an assistant district attorney for DuPage County, then served as the first assistant district attorney. He then went into private practice with John Darrah, later a federal judge, for eight years before leaving to run for state attorney.
After losing the gubernatorial race in 2002, Mr Ryan returned to Benedictine University in the western suburb of Lisle, where he taught courses in political science and criminal justice. He joined the Chicago office of Gardner, Carton & Douglas in 2003 and later served as an attorney with the Naperville law firm, Jim Ryan & Associates.
In 2005, Mr. Ryan established the Center for Civic Leadership at Benedictine University in partnership with the university’s Board of Trustees and the Faculty of Political Science.
“From the time I met him until his death, Jimmy always strived to do the right thing and help people,” his wife, Marie, said in the family statement. “That was who he was, and he did very well.”
In addition to his wife, Mr. Ryan is survived by four of his six children, John (Stacie) Ryan, Jim (Heather) Ryan, Matthew (Melissa) Ryan and Amy Ryan. “His youngest daughter, Anne Marie, died aged 12 in 1997 from an undiagnosed brain tumour, and Patrick, 24, died in 2007,” according to the family statement.