‘Shoebox scandal’ politician Paul Powell’s Illinois home may be sold


Springfield, Ill. (AP) – Paul Powell, the Southern Illinois political powerhouse who Died and left $800,000 In Cash’s infamous “shoebox scandal”, it was said, “The only thing worse than a defeated politician is a broke politician.”

For more than half a century, a $250,000 trust established by Powell has perpetuated his legacy, for better or worse. But the account of his birthplace as a museum will soon be defunct. The fate of the home in Vienna, a town of about 1,300 about 140 miles (230 kilometers) southeast of St. Louis, is uncertain, but it is likely it will be sold.

In accordance with Powell’s wishes, for decades it has been home to the Johnson County Genealogical and Historical Society, whose home looks much as it did during the political giant’s tenure, with memorabilia scattered across the walls.

Maintenance runs about $5,000 a year, while society income last year was $4,300, said board member Gary Hacker, 85, whose parents were classmates with Powell and mowed his lawn as a teenager in the early 1950s. Was harvested.

“We’re probably going to put it on the market for sale,” Hacker said. “The historical society will relocate.”

Southern Illinois was Powell’s fiefdom until the mid-1900s. He brought jobs to the area by expanding the state prison infrastructure, increased wealth and status at Southern Illinois University, and promoted pari-mutuel betting on county fairs and horse races, serving the dual purpose of enriching Powell, who held racetrack stock. Completed.

While in later years Powell spent more time in Springfield and Chicago, when he was home, the house was frequented by people seeking favors. Hacker said Sunday afternoons were spent in the sunroom he added in the 1950s, where three televisions were tuned to different networks showing sports.

“He was very adept at watching football, smoking cigars and doing political business on the telephone or with people who came to meet him there,” Hacker said.

Winning a House seat in 1934, the Democrat was elected speaker in 1949, 1959, and 1961 – once despite Republicans claiming a one-seat majority. Chicago’s boss, Mayor Richard J. The deals he, in turn, made with Daley ensured projects for both areas and were often punctuated with another of Powell’s aphorisms: “I can smell the meat cooking!”

Powell’s influence grew with his selection as Secretary of State in 1964.

“When Paul Powell was an influential person, people knew where Johnson County was,” said John Rendleman III, an attorney in Carbondale.

Rendleman’s father, a friend of Powell’s and executor of his estate, uncovered one of the most bizarre political scandals in a state famous for rampant corruption cases.

After Powell’s sudden death at age 68 in October 1970, the elder Rendleman found $750,000 in cash in his suite at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, mostly in briefcase compartments, but at least one from Marshall Field & Company. Were also in gift box. Another $50,000 was stashed in his Capitol office about five blocks away.

A federal investigation concluded that Powell skirted much of it by awarding contracts with bribery terms to friends. His estate was valued at $4.6 million when settled in 1978, equivalent to $21.8 million today. He owned $1 million worth of stock at horse tracks where he determined the most favorable racing dates.

The IRS claimed $1.7 million and the state of Illinois claimed $230,000. News reports on other politicians with horse racing stocks led to former Governor Otto Kerner, then a federal appeals judge, being thrown in federal prison. Future politicians were required by law to begin completing annual statements of economic interest.

Hacker said the number of curious people once attracted to Powell’s home has dwindled because of the bizarre legend. Even in Vienna, very few people remember Powell.

“Memories last almost a generation,” Rendelman said.

About $80,000 remains in the trust, Hacker said. Subtracting legal fees and the value of the home, which is estimated at about $60,000, the account would be empty. A court date to close the trust has not yet been set.

Telephone and email messages seeking comment were left for the trustee of First Mid Bank & Trust in Mattoon.

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the home will remain open, Hacker said. A prospective buyer has suggested turning the three-bedroom house, approximately 1,700 square feet (160 square metres), into a bed and breakfast.


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