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updated: 1/9/2011 9:59 PM

Call him the state's chief bachelor

Quinn Illinois' first unmarried governor in 61 years

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  • Pat Quinn, who will be sworn into a full term Monday, is the first bachelor in 61 years to occupy the office.

      Pat Quinn, who will be sworn into a full term Monday, is the first bachelor in 61 years to occupy the office.
    Associated Press file

 
By Kerry Lester

A wedding ring, by no means, is a requisite to holding the highest office in the state.

Yet all but two of Illinois' 41 governors have been accompanied by a first lady as they move into the executive mansion. Pat Quinn, who will be sworn into a full term Monday, is the first bachelor in 61 years to occupy the office.

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Quinn, 62, a devoted father to 27-year-old Patrick IV, a runner vying to make the Olympic trials in the 10,000 meter run, and David, 25, studying for his MBA at the University of Chicago, has been divorced since 1986.

Historians at the Illinois State Library say the state's only true bachelor governor was Henry Horner, also the first Jewish governor of Illinois, who served from 1933 to 1940. Adlai Stevenson was divorced eight months into his tenure as governor, in 1949.

While first ladies in recent history have taken up individual "causes" (Patti Blagojevich in 2003 announced an initiative to plant wildflowers alongside interstate highways, and Lura Lynn Ryan worked to establish the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which opened in 2002), there is no constitutional mandate for the duties of a first lady.

In fact, history hasn't been particularly observant of their achievements, said David Blanchette, communications manager for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential library and museum,

A 1998 feature in Illinois Issues magazine noted that "for the most part, history has dictated that the governors' wives play supporting roles: mother, homemaker and hostess. Thus, most of the available information about Illinois' 37 'first ladies' is contained in a few sentences within their prominent husbands' biographies."

It wasn't until 1994 that former first lady Brenda Edgar, with the support of Marshall Field's department stores, established a Hall of First Ladies in the Executive Mansion, in the hallway that stretches from the mansion's formal dining room to the ballroom.

While the intensely private governor is said to have a longtime girlfriend, a professional at an investment firm, it's anyone's guess who Quinn's first dance will be with at the inaugural ball on Monday night.

Asked if he was bringing a date to the inaugural ball, Quinn's spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said, "All the constitutional officers are being accompanied by family and friends."

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