George Ryan
American politician
George Ryan
George Homer Ryan, Sr. was the 39th Governor of the U.S. state of Illinois from 1999 until 2003. He was a member of the Republican Party. Ryan received worldwide attention for his 1999 moratorium on executions in Illinois and for commuting more than 160 death sentences to life sentences in 2003. He was convicted of federal corruption charges after leaving office and spent over five years in federal prison.
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Veteran Statehouse Reporter Recalls When Mike Madigan Longed For Power
Huffington Post - about 1 year
When reporter Kurt Erickson began covering the Illinois Statehouse, Jim Edgar was governor, George Ryan was secretary of state, Rod Blagojevich was a little-known state representative and a civil rights attorney from Chicago named Barack Obama was about to win election to his first term in the Illinois Senate. In nearly two decades of covering Illinois government and politics for Lee Enterprises newspapers, Erickson saw a transition from an atmosphere of deal-making amid a healthy state economy to the current state of budget gridlock and partisan bickering as leaders argue over the cause of the economic malaise that's gripped Illinois since the Great Recession. He has covered five governors, including two who would go to prison on corruption charges. House Speaker Michael Madigan has worked all year to show Gov. Bruce Rauner that he's still the most powerful person in Springfield, but that wasn't the scene when Erickson arrived at the Statehouse. "When I came here the Republica ...
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Huffington Post article
Let It Bleed, Bro: The Rolling Stones Take the Sixties By Storm
Huffington Post - over 1 year
The sixties were -- mostly -- way cool. Lights and darks. Highs and lows. Cheers and tears. Always, excitement. Despite the roller-coaster extremes of what was going on, those of us who partied hard in that decade will always remember it as the best of times. And the worst of times. This generation is sick of hearing all that. I can dig it. But those of us who lived it have it carved in stone in our collective memories. A lot of shit went down. It wasn't just our long hair. We didn't need technological devices that the "Looking-Down" (at cell phones) generation of today depend upon to function. Technology is their new drug, adding layers of distance from face to face real-life, and creating anxiety with "social media" pressure. We looked into each other's blood-shot eyes and spoke live. We didn't need to look at a screen to know how to act. We believed in a form of hip chaos. We didn't worry about ending sentences with a preposition. "W ...
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Huffington Post article
Let It Bleed, Bro: The Rolling Stones Take the Sixties By Storm
Huffington Post - over 1 year
The sixties were -- mostly -- way cool. Lights and darks. Highs and lows. Cheers and tears. Always, excitement. Despite the roller-coaster extremes of what was going on, those of us who partied hard in that decade will always remember it as the best of times. And the worst of times. This generation is sick of hearing all that. I can dig it. But those of us who lived it have it carved in stone in our collective memories. A lot of shit went down. It wasn't just our long hair. We didn't need technological devices that the "Looking-Down" (at cell phones) generation of today depend upon to function. Technology is their new drug, adding layers of distance from face to face real-life, and creating anxiety with "social media" pressure. We looked into each other's blood-shot eyes and spoke live. We didn't need to look at a screen to know how to act. We believed in a form of hip chaos. We didn't worry about ending sentences with a preposition. "Where the party at?" My crew wa ...
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Huffington Post article
7 Reasons Why You Need to Start Screaming About the State of Our State
Huffington Post - over 1 year
*This is an opinion piece written by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek Why aren't all of us up in arms and screaming about our state? I think about this a lot lately. I thought about it last week as I visited some of my family members who live in Colorado. While I was there, I met an expert fly fisherman in Breckinridge who told me that at one point in the past few years, 134 people moved into Colorado every day. Every day. My sister moved there decades ago. She and some of her children asked what the latest was in Illinois. When I told them about our budget and political stalemate, they shook their heads and asked why people here aren't doing something about it. They couldn't believe there wasn't more uproar. I can't either. Why isn't there? I point, in part, to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich sitting in that federal prison in Colorado. And to his predecessor, George Ryan. And to Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi. And former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. And now, in ...
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Huffington Post article
Ryan says 'felon' hurts convicts' chances of finding work
Chicago Times - over 1 year
Drawing from his personal experience as a federal inmate, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan on Friday bemoaned society's use of the word "felon" to describe people convicted of felony crimes, saying the practice hinders people from finding work after prison. When people with a past conviction are...
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Chicago Times article
What Would Be Your Last Meal? For 600 Executed Prisoners, One Painter Memorializes Their Answers
Huffington Post - almost 2 years
Painter Julie Green and "The Last Supper." Photo by Felicia Phillips. "He told us he never had a birthday cake, so we ordered a birthday cake for him," said a prison official in 2007. The cake and some pizza was an Indiana man's last meal request before he was executed on a Friday morning in May. The name of this man and the crime he committed is discoverable within a few clicks on Google. But that would be missing the point, according to Julie Green, an art professor at Oregon State University. Since 2000, Green has painted 600 plates depicting the last meals of death row inmates, "The Last Supper." In cobalt-blue mineral paint, she notes on each plate the state and date of the execution alongside the meal request -- but no name, no crime -- before the ceramic dish is kiln-fired at 1400 degrees. "It is a memento mori representing a lot of suffering," Green said. "By putting a name, it makes it less accessible." Indiana 05 May 2007. Pizza and birthday cake shared w ...
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Huffington Post article
Corinthian Colleges to be monitored by ex-U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald
Yahoo News - over 2 years
Former federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald agreed to serve as an independent monitor of Corinthian Colleges Inc, the struggling for-profit education company that agreed to sell or close its campuses, the U.S. Department of Education said on Friday. Fitzgerald, 53, is a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which he joined in 2012 after a decade as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago. As a prosecutor, he won the convictions of former Illinois governors George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich;
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Yahoo News article
Dan Rutherford Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Could Spell Trouble In Corruption-Weary Illinois
Huffington Post - about 3 years
CHICAGO (AP) — While a federal lawsuit against Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has publicized salacious sexual harassment allegations, government watchdog groups say the lawsuit's claims of political corruption are just as worrisome as the Republican campaigns for governor. Rutherford, who has strongly denied allegations leveled by a former employee, is locked in a four-way Republican primary. He spent Tuesday — the day after the lawsuit's filing — countering the claims in radio appearances. He maintained that the suit is a politically motivated ploy meant to hurt his campaign weeks ahead of the March 18 contest. In the lawsuit, Edmund Michalowski, a former lawyer and director in Rutherford's office, alleges a "long-standing pattern" of being forced to engage in political activity while working for the state. Even the hint of such political corruption could taint Rutherford ahead of the primary, and it raises troubling questions, experts say, especially in a state where two former ...
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Huffington Post article
The Best Illinois GIF Gallery of 2013!
Huffington Post - about 3 years
2013 was an exciting, awkward, frustrating, and confusing year in Illinois. Join us as we take a look back at some of the most memorable highlights from 2013 in snarky visual fashion! This summer was a hot one, especially when the Metra's former CEO received a suspicious six-figure severance...and that was just the tip of the iceberg! The scandal was so frustrating it riled up passengers! Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel got his groove on at the Taste of Chicago: This absurd Chicago hit-and-run fail went viral: And, of course, who could forget when Michael Madigan ducked from cameras after his absence from Gov. Pat Quinn's special pension meeting this summer: Our Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in the most awesome way possible! Remember Gov Quinn's "warm" welcome during the Chicago Blackhawks parade ceremony: All Chicago Bulls fans' hearts broke when they saw this happen to Derrick Rose in November: While Congressman Jesse Ja ...
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Huffington Post article
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn Must Pardon Randy Steidl Now
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Gordon "Randy" Steidl is a survivor and a hero. He survived 17 years in the Illinois prison system, 12 on death row, for a crime he did not commit. That is something few of us can fathom. Now he is fighting against the death penalty as the board chairman of Witness to Innocence, the national organization of exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones. Randy helped bring about the repeal of the death penalty in his home state of Illinois, when Gov. Pat Quinn signed an abolition bill into law. Now all Randy is looking for is a pardon from the Governor. And he's been waiting for an answer for 11 years, since he first filed his petition. Is it so much for an innocent man to ask? Steidl and co-defendant Herbert Whitlock were convicted and sentenced to death for the 1986 double murder of Dyke and Karen Rhoads, a newlywed couple in Paris, Illinois, in the rural Southern part of the state. The couple had been brutally stabbed to death in their bedroom. Meanwhile, th ...
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Huffington Post article
Matthew Dietrich: Did Madigan break laws? In Metra scandal, that's not the issue
Huffington Post - over 3 years
Let's be clear on thing regarding House Speaker Michael Madigan's role in the Metra scandal: he probably didn't break any laws. As State Rep. Jack Franks told Reboot's Madeleine Doubek last week: "The Speaker knows the law, he writes the law, and he doesn't break the law. He doesn't cross the line... He follows the rules." But let's also be clear on a second point: Whether he broke any laws is all but irrelevant here. The biggest problem in Illinois' political culture of corruption isn't outright law-breaking. We can list dozens of convictions from the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich investigations (not to mention lots of lesser-known cases) in which law-breakers were caught, tried and convicted. The problem is what politicians can do within the law - but should know better. Specifically, they should know better than to use our tax dollars to create a privileged, connected class of public employees who can rely on their political patrons to get them jobs, promotions and ...
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Huffington Post article
Madeleine Doubek: Mell Replacement a Chance to Start a Fresh Example for All
Huffington Post - over 3 years
I don't really know Chicago Ald. Dick Mell, but my guess from what I know of him, is that he'd be the first to tell us he's no saint. So, I was a bit surprised at the extent of the coverage of the announcement of his retirement, especially since it was forecast a while ago, albeit prematurely. He is known and will always be remembered for giving all of Illinois his son-in-law Rod Blagojevich, our former Democratic governor now serving a 14-year sentence for corruption convictions at a federal prison in Colorado. Mell used his political power to move Blagojevich up the political command chain. And for those of us who have been kicking around these parts for several decades, he also is remembered for his role in the raucous, extra-hours council meeting at which an interim replacement was chosen, for our first black mayor Harold Washington. Mell stood atop his desk shouting to be recognized formally so that he could speak. For both of those reasons, extensive coverage ...
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Huffington Post article
Illinois: Former Governor Ryan Freed From Custody
NYTimes - over 3 years
Former Gov. George Ryan’s ending more than five and a half years in federal custody for corruption offenses.
Article Link:
NYTimes article
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of George Ryan
  • 2013
    Age 78
    He was listed as Federal Inmate Number 16627-424 and was released on July 3, 2013.
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    He was released from federal prison on July 3, 2013.
    More Details Hide Details Born in Maquoketa, Iowa, Ryan grew up in Kankakee County, Illinois. After serving in the U.S. Army in Korea, he worked for his father's two drugstores. He attended Ferris State College of Pharmacy (now Ferris State University) in Big Rapids, Michigan. Eventually, he built his father's pair of pharmacies into a successful family-run chain (profiting from lucrative government-contract business selling prescription drugs to nursing homes) which he sold in 1990.
    Ryan was released on July 3, 2013, a day earlier than originally planned.
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    Ryan was released to a Salvation Army halfway house in Chicago on January 30, 2013.
    More Details Hide Details Less than three hours later, Ryan was released back to his home in Kankakee on home confinement.
  • 2011
    Age 76
    On January 5, 2011, Ryan was taken from his prison cell in Terre Haute, Indiana, to a hospital in Kankakee so that he could visit his terminally ill wife.
    More Details Hide Details Ryan was present when Mrs. Ryan died five months after that visit.
  • 2010
    Age 75
    On December 21, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer denied Governor Ryan's request.
    More Details Hide Details Judge Pallmeyer was sympathetic to Governor Ryan's plight, saying she knew it would be very unpleasant for Governor Ryan to be separated from his wife, and not released until long after his wife's death. However, the judge noted that the decision to convict and to sentence, depriving an individual of liberty or life, is never taken lightly, and that there were many more cases where the defendant or incarcerated convict is facing an equally serious or more serious position.
    In 2010, Ryan requested early release, partly on the grounds that his wife had terminal cancer and was given only six months to live, and partly based on a request that some of the charges of which he had been found guilty and sentenced should be vacated in light of a Supreme Court ruling that was alleged to have affected the legitimacy of those convictions by the prosecution.
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    Ryan’s attorneys litigated the pension matter all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court who ruled February 19, 2010 that state law "plainly mandates that none of the benefits provided for under the system shall be paid to Ryan."
    More Details Hide Details Ryan was paid $635,000 in pension benefits during the three years between his retirement and his political corruption conviction, plus a refund of the $235,500 in personal contributions he made during his 30 years in public office.
  • 2008
    Age 73
    United States Senator Dick Durbin wrote a letter to Bush dated December 1, 2008, asking him to commute Ryan's sentence, citing Ryan's age and his wife's frail health, saying, "This action would not pardon him of his crimes or remove the record of his conviction, but it would allow him to return to his wife and family for their remaining years."
    More Details Hide Details Bush did not pardon Ryan. After his conviction Ryan's $197,037 per year state pension was suspended under state law.
    He was transferred on February 29, 2008, to a medium security facility in Terre Haute, Indiana, after Oxford changed its level of medical care and stopped housing inmates over 70 years old.
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  • 2007
    Age 72
    The Supreme Court rejected an extension of his bail, and Ryan reported to the Federal Prison Camp in Oxford, Wisconsin, on November 7, 2007.
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    His conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit on August 21, 2007, and review by the entire Seventh Circuit was denied on October 25, 2007.
    More Details Hide Details The Seventh Circuit then rejected Ryan's bid to remain free while he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case; the opinion called the evidence of Ryan's guilt "overwhelming."
    Ryan was ordered to go to prison on January 4, 2007, but the appellate court granted an appeal bond, allowing him to remain free pending the outcome of the appeal.
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  • 2006
    Age 71
    On September 6, 2006, he was sentenced to serve six and a half years in prison.
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    On April 17, 2006, the jury found Ryan and Warner guilty on all counts.
    More Details Hide Details However, when ruling on post-trial motions, the judge dismissed two counts against Ryan for lack of proof. Ryan said that he would appeal the verdict, largely due to the issues with the jury. Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor, noted, "Mr. Ryan steered contracts worth millions of dollars to friends and took payments and vacations in return. When he was a sitting governor, he lied to the F.B.I. about this conduct and then he went out and did it again." He charged that one of the most egregious aspects of the corruption was Ryan's action after learning that bribes were being paid for licenses. Instead of ending the practice he tried to end the investigation that had uncovered it, Fitzgerald said, calling the moment "a low-water mark for public service." Ryan became one of four Illinois governors since 1968 to be convicted of white-collar crimes, following Otto Kerner, Jr. and Dan Walker and followed by Rod Blagojevich.
  • 2003
    Age 68
    The investigation finally reached the former governor, and in December 2003, Ryan and lobbyist Lawrence Warner were named in a 22-count federal indictment.
    More Details Hide Details The charges included racketeering, bribery, extortion, money laundering and tax fraud. The indictment alleged that Ryan steered several state contracts to Warner and other friends; disbursed campaign funds to relatives and to pay personal expenses; and obstructed justice by attempting to end the state investigation of the license-for-bribes scandal. He was charged with lying to investigators and accepting cash, gifts and loans in return for his official actions as governor. In late 2005, the case went to trial. Fawell, under pressure from prosecutors, became a key witness against Ryan and Warner. He agreed to a plea deal that cut the prison time for himself and his fiancee, Andrea Coutretsis. Fawell was a controversial witness, not hiding his disdain for prosecutors from the witness stand. According to CBS Chicago political editor Mike Flannery, insiders claimed that Fawell had been "much like a son" to the former governor throughout their careers. At Ryan's trial, Fawell acknowledged that the prosecution had his "head in a vise", and that he found his cooperation with the government against Ryan "the most distasteful thing I've ever done". Nonetheless, he spent several days on the witness stand testifying against Ryan and Warner. Fawell, once a tough-talking political strategist, wept on the witness stand as he acknowledged that his motivation for testifying was to spare Coutretsis a long prison sentence for her role in the conspiracy. The jury was twice sent out of the courtroom so that Fawell could wipe tears from his eyes and regain his composure.
    In March 2003, Scott Fawell, Ryan's former Chief of Staff and campaign manager, was convicted on federal charges of racketeering and fraud.
    More Details Hide Details He was sentenced to six years and six months. Former deputy campaign manager Richard Juliano pleaded guilty to related charges and testified against Fawell at trial. Roger Stanley, former Republican State Rep. who was hired by Ryan and testified against Fawell, pleaded guilty to wide-ranging corruption, admitting he paid kickbacks to win state contracts and campaign business, secretly mailed out vicious and false attacks on political opponents and helped obtain ghost-payrolling jobs.
    On January 11, 2003, just two days before leaving office, Ryan commuted (to "life" terms) the sentences of everyone on or waiting to be sent to Illinois' death row—a total of 167 convicts—due to his belief that the death penalty could not be administered fairly.
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  • 2002
    Age 67
    In the wake of numerous convictions of his former aides, he chose not to run for reelection in 2002.
    More Details Hide Details Seventy-nine former state officials, lobbyists, and others were charged in the investigation, and at least 76 were convicted. The corruption scandal leading to Ryan's downfall began more than a decade earlier during a federal investigation into a deadly crash in Wisconsin. Six children from the Willis family of Chicago, Illinois, were killed; their parents, Rev. Duane and Janet Willis, were severely burned. The investigation revealed a scheme inside Ryan's Secretary of State's office in which unqualified truck drivers obtained licenses through bribes.
  • 2001
    Age 66
    Ryan won praise from death penalty opponents: as early as 2001 he received the Mario Cuomo Act of Courage Award from Death Penalty Focus, in 2003 the Rose Elizabeth Bird Commitment to Justice Award from the same organization, and in 2005 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
    More Details Hide Details On the other side of the Atlantic, Robert Badinter, who had successfully introduced the bill abolishing the death penalty in France in 1981 praised the decision of George Ryan. Many conservatives, though, were opposed to the commutations, some questioning his motives, which came as a federal corruption investigation closed in on the governor and his closest political allies (see below). Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan called Ryan "pathetic", and suggested the governor was attempting to save his public image in hopes of avoiding prison himself. Buchanan noted "Ryan announced his decision to a wildly cheering crowd at the Northwestern University Law School. Families of the victims of the soon-to-be-reprieved killers were not invited." Ryan's political career was marred by a scandal called "Operation Safe Road," which involved the illegal sale of government licenses, contracts and leases by state employees during his prior service as Secretary of State.
  • 2000
    Age 65
    Ryan helped to renew the national debate on capital punishment when, as governor, he declared a moratorium on his state's death penalty in 2000. "We have now freed more people than we have put to death under our system," he said. "There is a flaw in the system, without question, and it needs to be studied."
    More Details Hide Details At the time, Illinois had executed 12 people since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, with one execution, that of Ripper Crew member Andrew Kokoraleis, occurring early during Ryan's term. Ryan refused to meet with religious leaders and others regarding "a stay of execution" in light of the impending 'moratorium' and other facts relative to the 'flawed' capital punishment system in Illinois; in fact, under Ryan's governorship, 13 people were released from jail after appealing their convictions based on new evidence. Ryan called for a commission to study the issue, while noting, "I still believe the death penalty is a proper response to heinous crimes... But I believe that it has to be where we don't put innocent people to death." The issue had garnered the attention of the public when a death row inmate, Anthony Porter, who had spent 15 years on death row, was within two days of being executed when his lawyers won a stay on the grounds that he may have been mentally disabled. He was ultimately exonerated with the help of a group of student journalists at Northwestern University who had uncovered evidence that was used to prove his innocence. In 1999, Porter was released, charges were subsequently dropped, and another person, Alstory Simon, confessed and pleaded guilty to the crime of which Porter had been erroneously convicted.
    In 2000, Ryan served as a Chair of the Midwestern Governors Association.
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  • 1999
    Age 64
    In 1999, Ryan sparked controversy by becoming the first sitting U.S. Governor to meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
    More Details Hide Details Ryan's visit led to a $1 million donation of humanitarian aid, but drew criticism from anti-Castro groups.
  • 1998
    Age 63
    Ryan was elected Governor in 1998, defeating his opponent, Glenn Poshard, by a 51%–47% margin.
    More Details Hide Details Ryan's running mate was Corinne Wood. One of Ryan's pet projects as governor was an extensive repair of the Illinois Highway System called "Illinois FIRST." FIRST was an acronym for "Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools, and Transit." Signed into law in May 1999, the law created a $6.3 billion package for use in school and transportation projects. With various matching funds programs, Illinois FIRST provided $2.2 billion for schools, $4.1 billion for public transportation, another $4.1 billion for roads, and $1.6 billion for other projects. He also improved Illinois's technology infrastructure, creating one of the first cabinet-level Offices of Technology in the country and bringing up Illinois's technology ranking in a national magazine from 48th out of the 50 states when he took office to 1st just two years later. Ryan committed record funding to education, including 51% of all new state revenues during his time in office, in addition to the billions spent through Illinois FIRST that built and improved schools and education infrastructure.
  • 1994
    Age 59
    This rivalry led Quinn in a failed bid to challenge Ryan in the 1994 general election for Secretary of State.
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  • 1991
    Age 56
    He then spent 20 years in statewide office, as Lieutenant Governor under Governor James R. Thompson (1983–91), Secretary of State from 1991 - 99, and as Governor from 1999 - 2003.
    More Details Hide Details During his first term as Secretary of State, then-State Treasurer Pat Quinn was publicly critical of Ryan. Specifically, he drew attention to special vanity license plates that Ryan's office provided for clout-heavy motorists.
  • 1973
    Age 38
    He was then elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, where he served from 1973–83, including two terms as Minority Leader and one term as Speaker.
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  • 1970
    Age 35
    Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller also commuted the sentence of every death row inmate in that state as he left office after losing his 1970 bid for a third two-year term, as did New Mexico Governor Toney Anaya before he left office in 1986 and Ohio Governor Dick Celeste before he left office in 1990.
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  • 1968
    Age 33
    Ryan began his political career by serving on the Kankakee County Board from 1968 to 1973 (his brother Tom J. Ryan was Mayor of Kankakee for 20 years from 1965–1985).
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  • 1956
    Age 21
    On June 10, 1956, Ryan married his high school sweetheart, Lura Lynn Lowe (July 5, 1934 – June 27, 2011) whom he had met in a high school English class.
    More Details Hide Details She grew up in Aroma Park, where her family (originally from Germany) had lived since 1834. Her father owned one of the first hybrid seed companies in the United States. The couple had five daughters (including a set of triplets); Julie, Joanne, Jeanette, Lynda and Nancy; and one son, George Homer Ryan, Jr. Lura Lowe died of lung cancer at Riverside Hospital in Kankakee on June 27, 2011. Ryan's brother, Tom, was a prominent political figure in Kankakee County. In addition, Ryan's sister Kathleen Dean's former son-in-law, Bruce Clark, is the Kankakee County, Illinois Clerk.
  • 1954
    Age 19
    Ryan was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954.
    More Details Hide Details He served a 13-month tour in Korea, working in a base pharmacy.
  • 1934
    Born on February 24, 1934.
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