John Riley Tanner, the twenty-third governor of the State of Illinois, was born on April 4,
1844, near Booneville, Indiana.  Shortly after his birth, his family moved to a farm near
Carbondale, Illinois.  With only a limited education in country schools, Tanner joined the
Union Army in 1863 during the Civil War and served as a private in the 98th Illinois

After the war, Tanner bought land in Clay County and began farming.  He also ran a
sawmill, sold fruit trees, and entered Republican politics in 1870.  He gradually moved
up the Republican political ladder by serving as sheriff of Clay County, Clerk of the
Circuit Court, member of the Illinois State Senate, U. S. Marshall of the Southern District
in Illinois, Illinois State Treasurer, and Assistant Treasurer for Chicago.  He was elected
Governor of Illinois in 1896 and was sworn in on January 11, 1897.

During his four-year term as governor, Tanner’s administration promoted several
significant legislative reforms.  He recommended the creation of a pardon board,
proposed new civil rights legislation, refused to allow state troopers to be used to
break up labor strikes, borrowed money to eliminate the State’s financial deficit, and
supplied ten regiments from Illinois to fight in the Spanish-American War.

Tanner’s first wife had died in 1887, but he married Springfield socialite Cora Edith
English just eleven days before his inauguration.  The wedding was the most elaborate
social event that Springfield had seen in years.  Electric lights were part of the
decorations at the State Capitol for the first time.

Instead of running for reelection to the Governor’s office, Tanner committed political
suicide in 1900 when he ran for the U.S. Senate against the popular Shelby Cullom.  
Four months after he returned to private life, Tanner died on May 23, 1901.  His funeral
was as elaborate as his wedding.  Thousands of people passed his body as it lay in
state in the rotunda of the Capitol.

Tanner's love of pageantry is reflected in his grand
mausoleum near the entrance of Oak Ridge erected by
friends and family.  Famed sculptor Charles Mulligan
created a bust of Tanner that can still be seen inside
his final resting place.
SPRINGFIELD'S SCULPTURES,            Carl and Roberta Volkmann
Oak Ridge
Governor Tanner's Monument