A life of principles, service, and faith
This first biography of Glenn Poshard traces the life of a young man who rose from rural poverty in Southern Illinois to become a United States congressman and president of the Southern Illinois University system. This profound portrait unveils a life and career dedicated to making higher education affordable and improving the quality of life for the community of Southern Illinois.
Beginning with his childhood in a two-room home near Herald, Illinois and the early, tragic loss of his sister, this biography navigates Poshard’s service in the military, his time as a state senator and United States congressman, his run for governor, his years at Southern Illinois University, and the establishment of the Poshard Foundation for Abused Children. Intimacies of his personal life are disclosed, such as his struggles with and treatment for depression, his passion for education, and the lasting bonds he formed with his teachers. His unpopular decision to refuse PAC donations is also highlighted, along with the work that went into sponsoring the Illinois Wilderness Act, and his relationship with civil rights activist John Lewis. Glenn Poshard’s efforts for the Wilderness Act designated Southern Illinois’s famous Garden of the Gods as a National Wilderness Preservation System, which continues to attract visitors from around the world.
Poshard’s path from poverty was riddled with hardship, but his perseverance and family values ultimately allowed for longstanding personal and civic growth. From an admirable work ethic to a steadfast commitment to problem-solving, this biography illuminates the life and accomplishments of an impressive and generous leader.
Honorable Mention, Ramirez Family Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book, Texas Institute of Letters, 2019
Jim Wright made his mark on virtually every major public policy issue in the later twentieth century—energy, education, taxes, transportation, environmental protection, civil rights, criminal justice, and foreign relations, among them. He played a significant role in peace initiatives in Central America and in the Camp David Accords, and he was the first American politician to speak live on Soviet television. A Democrat representing Texas’s twelfth district (Fort Worth), Wright served in the US House of Representatives from the Eisenhower administration to the presidency of George H. W. Bush, including twelve years (1977–1989) as majority leader and speaker. His long congressional ascension and sudden fall in a highly partisan ethics scandal spearheaded by Newt Gingrich mirrored the evolution of Congress as an institution.
Speaker Jim Wright traces the congressman’s long life and career in a highly readable narrative grounded in extensive interviews with Wright and access to his personal diaries. A skilled connector who bridged the conservative and liberal wings of the Democratic party while forging alliances with Republicans to pass legislation, Wright ultimately fell victim to a new era of political infighting, as well as to his own hubris and mistakes. J. Brooks Flippen shows how Wright’s career shaped the political culture of Congress, from its internal rules and power structure to its growing partisanship, even as those new dynamics eventually contributed to his political demise. To understand Jim Wright in all his complexity is to understand the story of modern American politics.
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