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The Paul Powell song on the new album was written by Steve Goodman. Up until now it had only been available on live performance tapes that were traded among Steve's fans. It also lived in Mike's memory from some of those early Earl of Old Town performances.
Paul Powell was a real guy. Not the first or the last in a long history of 'colorful' Illinois politicians.



"The office of Illinois Secretary of State has a long history of corruption. Holding that office in the 1960s, was an enterprising criminal named Paul Powell who dressed in dreary black garments like a mortician. Those applying for drivers licenses and car and truck title registration and such had to make their payments payable TO PAUL POWELL. Since it was made out to his name, he figured it was perfectly okay to pocket those checks and money orders. [Some people just made the remittances TO PAUL POWELL, not Paul Powell, Illinois Secretary of State.] Powell kept shoeboxes full of those payments in his hotel apartment. One mistake. Being a cheapskate, he did not tip the maid who discovered the shoeboxes with the loot in his closet. She turned him in.

By the time he was put on federal criminal trial, Powell had bladder trouble. You could see his accidental urinating down the carpet to the courtroom. A group of reporters one day asked me if I would shake hands with Powell who was walking near my wheelchair. "Look, outside I sometime get dirt on my hands from wheeling this chair. Now you want me to shake hands with a pisser criminal? No thanks. Tell Powell to shake hands with his lawyers, the judge, and the jurors. Not me." I said in my sometimes sarcastic tone".
-From the late Sherman Skolnick

Southern Illinois powerhouse Paul Powell speaking at Illinois House of Representatives

Paul Powell was born in Vienna, Illinois on January 21, 1902. He was a big wheel in the Illinois Democratic Party since WWII. Eventually, he became Illinois Secretary of State in 1965. In 1966, his office was investigated for corruption; he was exonerated, but his chief investigator was indicted for theft of state funds. He was still in office when he died in Rochester, Minnesota on October 10, 1970. Shortly thereafter, a shoebox full of money was found in his room at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, Illinois.

The famous Paul Powell shoebox was actually more than one box, and not all were shoeboxes. There were also metal boxes, briefcases, and envelopes. This treasure trove, roughly $800,000 in cash, was discovered two days after he died, when Powell's staff and his estate executor gathered his belongings from the hotel room and storage area. The other, less famous findings included 49 cases of whiskey, 14 transistor radios, and two cases of creamed corn.


"We just assume politics is corrupt and a little bit of corruption is the cost of doing business," said Kent Redfield, a political scientist at the University of Illinois at Springfield.


"Paul did a lot of good things for southern Illinois, including helping to build the university I work at," said Mike Lawrence, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale,

"People were surprised about the amount of money," Lawrence said of the cache that neither Powell nor anyone else ever explained. "But there was sort of a sense if he gave us our share, what's wrong with him getting his share."


Powell never earned a state salary of more than $30,000 per year, yet in the last year of his life, his federal income tax return showed an income of more than $200,000. At his death his estate totaled $3.2 million, and, when settled in 1978, was worth $4.6 million, including nearly $1 million in racetrack stock.


In the winter of 1968-1969 I bought a 1949 Ford pick-up truck from Tom Silva, Montecello, Illinois. It was my very first vehicle and I thought it was a lucky truck because it was made the year I was born.

I was a newly married Californian living in Rantoul with my Air Force husband. I spent $50.00 for the truck, alot of money!

I called a taxi then asked the cabbie where to go to register my truck. He said "You just go over to Paul Powell's." Like it was somebody's house or something. "Oh no, It's the Secretary of State's office, Paul Powell is the Secretary of State. Paul Powell's is in Champaign."

He dropped me off in front of of building with a big "Paul Powell" sign blazing accross its front. No Department of Motor Vehicles sign or Illinois State sign or any other sign just "Paul Powell" singular, alone on the sign.

I stood in line garbed in my hot pink winter coat and matching hot pink sling back shoes. A navy mini dress with hot pink along the sleeves and hemline completed the picture of a dumb blonde Californian without a clue as how things worked in Illinois

When the clerk asked me to "Please make your check out to Paul Powell."

I replied with alarm "I'm not making my check out to some guy."

The clerk looked at me like I was nuts. "It will be just fine." she said soothingly, "See, all the checks and money get filed with the receipts."

She pointed me over to where other clerks were filing checks and cash with pink receipts into shoe box shaped filing boxes with lids.

One of those clerks told me "See we file each receipt with its check or money," as she waved a pink receipt then placed it with money from her other hand. "Then it goes into these boxes." She places the receipt and cash into a box. "We keep the receipts between the money or checks so they don't get all mixed up or lost." She held the box so I could see inside.

The box was full of checks and cash and there were a lot of them too. Half of the office in front of the counter was filled with clerks processing receipts, checks and cash into "shoe box" files.

I wasn't going to give that "guy" any of my money. I had heard about Illinois corruption. I had seen gangster movies!!

I registered my truck in Caifornia!!!

-Linda Hackett


PAUL POWELL'S NEST EGG -Time Magazine 1/18/1971

Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell had a simple definition, expressed in the negative, of a successful politician: "There's only one thing worse than a defeated politician, and that's a broke one." For 42 years, Powell was an undefeated politician. Now, three months after his death, at age 68, his executor, the Illinois attorney general and the Illinois Bureau of Investigation are taking the true measure of his success. Powell, who in his lifetime of public service never earned more than $30,000 a year, left an estate worth more than $2 million,$800,000 of it in bills packed into shoe boxes, briefcases and strongboxes in the closet of his hotel suite in Springfield.

The cache has set off a flurry of investigations into the career of Illinois' Mr. Downstate Democrat. Powell served 30 years in the state legislature before becoming secretary of state, including three terms as speaker of the house and four terms as minority leader of the assembly. He was an orator given to ungrammatical homespun anecdotes and a campaigner whose baby-kissing forays through county fairs belied his statehouse reputation as a master of patronage. His annual "flower fund" was required charity for all Powell appointees, and with 2,000 patronage jobs at his disposal during his five-year term as secretary of state, he was able to enforce his oft-stated fondness for doling out jobs and commanding loyalty. "I can smell the meat acookin'," Powell said whenever the subject of state jobs was raised. He also had a certain charm, summed up by a boyhood friend: "Paul was just a big old country boy,he could shake you down and make you like him."

Unscathed. There were several brushes with scandal during his political career, usually centering on his love for horse racing, but each time Powell emerged unscathed. After a grand jury investigation into a stock purchase in a harness-racing corporation whose legislative cause he had championed, the exonerated Powell commented: "It wound up with the grand jurors wanting to know from me where they could buy racetrack stock."

When he died of a heart attack Oct. 10 in the Rochester, Minn., hotel room where he was staying as an outpatient of the Mayo Clinic, a bizarre chain of events began to unfold. His death was kept from the press and public for more than 24 hours while top aides searched through his office at the state capital, ostensibly to remove personal papers that Powell would not have wished to be made public.

Bemused Beneficiary. John S. Rendleman, chancellor of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and executor of the estate of the twice-widowed, childless Powell, discovered the money in the Springfield hotel room the day after funeral services had been held in the capitol rotunda. "The closet was full of money," Rendleman said. It took three bank tellers more than four hours to count the money. Rendleman did not make the find public until nearly three months later, while he searched neighboring banks for additional funds.

As Illinois Attorney General William Scott began an investigation into how Powell got the money and how much of it the state could collect in taxes, the chief beneficiary of Powell's estate was as bemused by the booty as the investigators. The Johnson County Historical Society Museum, newly endowed with $1.5 million of Powell's money, was unsure just how to spend the funds on its two-room display of historic farm tools, whose previous maintenance was $200 per year.


The Legacy



For high school students living in or going to school in Bloomingdale, Roselle, or Medina, the Bloomingdale VFW Post 7539 is helping to sponsor the 2005-2006 Paul Powell Essay Contest, which is an essay contest for students in the State of Illinois. Specifically, the estate of Paul Powell provides a Trust Fund for a Paul Powell Scholarship and for many years, the VFW has been offering this opportunity to the many young people looking for financial assistance in furthering their education. The essay contest is overseen by the Director of the Safety Program for the VFW Department of Illinois.

The theme for 2005-2006 is "WHY SHOULD I USE A SEAT BELT."

Essay Contest Rules are as Follows:

1. School grade level 9th, l0th, 11th, and 12th grades.

2. 150 words or less, typewritten and double-spaced on one side of the paper.

3. Student's name, home address, social security number, name of school, grade in school, and the name of the sponsoring V.F.W. Post (7539) on a separate piece of paper attached to the essay as a transmittal form.

4. Two copies of the essay & transmittal form are to be submitted and mailed/postmarked NLT 11 April 2006. One copy is to be mailed to Mike Breyne, 42W640 Star Lane, Sugar Grove, IL 60554 (tel: 630 466-7816). The other copy is to be mailed to Bill Bahr, 150 Greenfield Drive, Bloomingdale, IL 60108 (tel: 630 307-3634). Final judging will be at the state level.

5. State-level First Place Prize: $500.00 Scholarship; Second Place Prize: $400.00 Scholarship; Third Place Prize: $300.00 Scholarship

Checks will be sent to the school of the winner's choice at the time he or she enters college. Winners are responsible for notifying Department (State) Headquarters as to when and where he or she will be entering college. Winners will be presented with a framed certificate stating First, Second, or Third Place Winner and the amount of the Scholarship.

2003-2004 State-level Paul Powell Essay third-place winner: Kim Seigfreid, LPHS, winning $300.

2004-2005 State-level Paul Powell Essay second-place winner: Kim Seigfreid, LPHS, winning $400.


The Official Obit.

Paul Taylor Powell (1902-1970); also known as Paul Powell of Vienna, Johnson County, Ill. Born in Vienna, Johnson County, Ill., January 21, 1902. Democrat. Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1944, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960; chair of Johnson County Democratic Party, 1950; Speaker of the Illinois State House of Representatives, 1959-63; secretary of state of Illinois, 1965-70; died in office 1970. In 1966, his office was investigated for corruption; he was exonerated, but his chief investigator was indicted for theft of state funds. Died in Rochester, Olmsted County, Minn., October 10, 1970; about $800,000 was found in shoeboxes in his room at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, Ill. Interment at Fraternal Cemetery.

Visit the Paul Powell Home...

Paul Powell was the famous former Illinois Secretary of State. His home is completely furnished featuring a historical museum with the houses genealogical and historical materials. It is located on Route 146 and Vine in Vienna . For more information call the Paul Powell House at 618-995-2068. The house is open each Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 1:00 - 4:00 pm . Group tours may be arranged with advanced notice. Closed during January, February, and March. Free admission


Paul Powell is reputed to have said, "MY FRIENDS EAT AT THE FIRST TABLE."