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Frank Watson - Legislators Project

Senator Frank Watson (Republican) served as the Minority Leader in the Illinois State Senate during some of the state's most politically volatile years, coinciding with Rod Blagojevich's years as governor. Watson, from the southern Illinois town of Greenville, was a vocal and powerful advocate on educational issues, and voted as a fiscal hawk and social conservative throughout his career, which began in the IL House in 1978. He suffered a stroke in October, 2008, and finished his time in the Senate during the Blagojevich impeachment trial in January, 2009. Watson also shares his memories of Barack Obama when he was in the Illinois State Senate.

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

Blagojevich visits Greenville

Abstract

Interview Session 01 (Audio)

Early years, entry into politics thru first term in IL House, 1978-80

Interview Session 02 (Audio)

Legislative career in the 1980s

Interview Session 03 (Audio)

Legislative career during the Jim Edgar administration

Interview Session 04 (Audio)

Legislative years 1994-1997 & Education reform

Interview Session 05 (Audio)

The George Ryan administration, 1997-2002

Interview Session 06 (Audio)

Years as IL Senate Minority Leader, and Senator Barack Obama

Interview Session 07 (Audio)

Senate Minority Leader during Governor Blagojevich administration


Photos

Caption

Frank Watson’s Blue Book photo from 1978 while he served in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1978

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Senator Frank Watson with his family during his House swearing-in ceremony on the House floor in 1979. Pictured are his son Chad, wife Susan, daughter Kami, and mother Pauline.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1979

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Jim Thompson signs the first bill Frank Watson sponsored in 1979, establishing a POW license plate. Sen. Robert Mitchler stands on the right and Rep. Larry DiPrima stands behind Watson’s left shoulder. The others are POWs from Watson’s district.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1979

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

The House and Senate softball team stand for their formal portrait at Comisky Park for the second annual Clout Classic circa 1980s, courtesy of the Sporting Views in Melrose Park, IL.

Where:

Comisky Park, Chicago, Illinois

When:

1980s

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Todd Seiben, Emil Jones, and Frank Watson at Wrigley Field during the 1980s. They played the city counsel of Chicago in softball.

Where:

Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois

When:

1980s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Senator Watson with Senate Minority Leader James ‘Pate’ Philip on the Senate floor in the early 1980s.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

Early 1980s

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

A caricature of golfer Frank Watson created in 1989 by an Omaha, Nebraska artist.

Where:

When:

1989

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Senator Watson with his Senate seatmate Bob Kustra on the Senate floor, circa 1990. Kustra went on to become Governor Edgar’s Lieutenant Governor.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1990

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Governor Thompson visited rural Bond County in Watson’s district during a drought. Pictured are John Block, Governor Jim Thompson, Larry Werries (Director of Ag), Hod McCasland, Vince DeMuzio (folding arms), and Frank Watson.

Where:

Bond County, Illinois

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Judy Barr Topinka with Senator Watson during an overtime session in July, 1991. The state faced a deficit, and Gov. Edgar was doing hard-ball negotiations that year on the state budget.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

July, 1991

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

A signed copy of Jim Berry’s “Maalox Moment” cartoon given to Frank Watson. Jim Berry was a cartoonist for the Belleville News-Democrat.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

The Senate won the Legislative Softball Tournament in 1993. A Regional Commerce rep holds the trophy with Sen. Watson. From left to right are Sen. Hawkinson, Shadig, Molaro, Cullerton, Petka, Bomke, Geo-Karris, DuValle, Syverson, Walsh and Burzynski.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1993

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Tom Wargo, a pro golfer from Centralia, Illinois, is featured on the cover of Golf News, which Watson peruses during an extended session, sometime in the 1990s.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1990s

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Republicans Ron Stephens and Frank Watson talking to Governor Edgar about welfare reform in 1995. They were fast-tracking the legislation after gaining control of both houses of the legislature following the election of 1994.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

1995

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Campaign supporters for Senator Watson gather behind a banner in Carlyse, Illinois during the Clinton County Fair in 1998.

Where:

Carlyse, Illinois

When:

1998

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

An example of Senator Watson’s campaign literature from the 2002 election. Watson is standing in front of a school in Mt. Zion, Illinois.

Where:

Mt. Zion, Illinois

When:

2002

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

A photo of Frank Watson that was used during his 2002 campaign for reelection.

Where:

Unknown

When:

2002

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

On May 22, 2003, Senator Frank Watson threw the state budget into the air while on the Senate floor, disgusted by how little time the Senators had to review the budget. The photo was taken by Jay Bernard, photographer for the Senate Republican Staff.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

May 22, 2003

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

On May 22, 2003 Senator Frank Watson threw a state budget amendment into the air in protest to receiving it only minutes before they were expected to vote. Staff photographer Jay Bernard was there on the Senate Floor to catch the action.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

May 22, 2003

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

On May 22, 2003, a disgusted Senator Frank Watson had just thrown a state budget amendment into the air while on the Senate Floor, and “let it fly.”

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

May 22, 2003

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Watson’s 2003 leadership team. In front are staffers Patty Schuh, Phil Webber, Tim Nudding, Annie Sagins, COS Brian McFadden, and Phil Draves. In the back are Senators Burzynski, Rauschenberger, Seiben, Luechtefeld, Watson, Petka, Peterson and Roskam.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

2003

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

[

Caption

A November 22, 2003 Chicago Tribune article featured Watson opposing a Democratically backed bill which would lift fines for political fund disclosure. “Don’t vote no,” Watson argued, “Vote ‘Hell No

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

November 22, 2003

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

In 2004 Watson received this wanted poster at a fundraiser, referencing the incident when he threw the state budget into the air in the Senate chamber in 2003. His theatrics that day went over well with his constituents.

Where:

Unknown

When:

2004

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Senator Watson with his son Chad at a Cardinals’ game at Busch Stadium in 2004.

Where:

Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri

When:

2004

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

A rally to save the Vandalia Correctional Center, which Governor Blagojevich was trying to close, was held on the main street of Vandalia in 2005.

Where:

Vandalia, Illinois

When:

2005

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Senator Watson celebrates a victory on the Senate floor in 2005 after efforts to keep the Vandalia Correctional Facility open were successful.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

2005

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Brian Lamb, the founder of CSPAN and Watson’s fraternity brother from their days at Purdue University, with Senator Watson at the opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in 2005.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

2005

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Governor Rod Blagojevich and Senator Watson stop for a picture inside Senator Watson’s Drug Store during Blagojevich’s visit to Greenville in August, 2006.

Where:

Greenville, Illinois

When:

2006

Ownership:

Narrator's Photo

Caption

Speaker of the House Mike Madigan and Senator Watson at Charlie Gitto’s in St. Louis in 2006 prior to a St. Louis Cardinals’ game.

Where:

St. Louis, Missouri

When:

2006

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Speaker Mike Madigan and his son Andrew at a St. Louis Cardinals’ game in 2006.

Where:

St. Louis, Illinois

When:

2006

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Senator Watson walks into the Senate chamber, with Senator Christine Radogno, the Deputy Minority Leader, behind him. This photo appeared in the July 26, 2007 issue of the State Journal Register.

Where:

Springfield, Illinois

When:

July 26, 2007

Ownership:

May be restricted. Patrons desiring to use this photograph should contact the ALPL Audio-Visual Curator.

Caption

Senator Frank Watson’s State Legislature’s official photo for the 2008 Illinois Blue Book.

Where:

When:

2008

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

A retired Senator Watson wears a t-shirt originally worn after an overtime session in the summer of 1991 due to Governor Edgar’s efforts to balance the state’s budget. Edgar and the Republicans counted the results as a victory.

Where:

Unknown

When:

August 2012

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Another t-shirt from Senator Watson’s collection, this one lampooning Governor Blagojevich and his penchant for calling the legislature into special sessions to force through his agenda.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Another t-shirt from Senator Watson’s collection, again referring to another Blagojevich special session.

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo



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