Henry Horner, Class of 1898
Former governor of Illinois
Henry Horner was the twenty-eighth governor of Illinois, serving from 1933 to 1940. He was born Henry Levy but assumed his mother’s maiden name, Horner, after his parents divorced in 1883. Upon his graduation from Chicago-Kent in 1898, Horner practiced law and then served as a probate judge from 1915 to 1931. When he was elected governor of Illinois in 1932, he became the state’s first Jewish governor. He took office in the midst of the Great Depression and as a result, ran an administration marked by a strong commitment to both conservative fiscal management and the needs of the indigent and those in state institutions. Although his insistence on keeping state payrolls free of non-working patronage appointees put him at odds with the Democratic political organization of Chicago, he was re-elected governor in 1936 with the help of a large downstate vote.
During Horner’s tenure as governor, the 18th Amendment was sanctioned, ending prohibition; a permanent sales tax was implemented, as well as a state tax on real estate and personal property; and a permanent voters registration system was enacted that required voters’ signatures to match records kept on file by election officials. According to Charles J. Masters, author of Governor Henry Horner, Chicago Politics and the Great Depression, Horner managed to maintain his personal integrity in a climate where honesty was a liability as he fought both the Chicago Democratic machine that worked to plot his downfall and the Roosevelt White House to steadfastly do right by the people of Illinois.
Horner passed away while still in office in 1940.