Several of our country's presidents are native to Illinois (depending on how one defines "from"). Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Ulysses S. Grant, and Abraham Lincoln all lived in Illinois before they made the White House their home. However, some candidates were not so lucky, and many of these Illinoisans' names have been lost to history.
Some Illinoisans also made their bids for the White House as vice presidential candidates, though not all of them made it either.
Presidential candidates who didn't make the cut:
Stephen Douglas (D)
Stephen Douglas ran for president in 1860 against Abraham Lincoln as a Democrat in the only presidential race in which both party's nominees were from Illinois (though southern Democrats nominated another candidate from Kentucky). His major platform, which was fully argued in the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates, was to leave the decision of slavery to the states. He received only 12 electoral votes.
Douglas was born in Vermont in 1813 and moved to live in Jacksonville, Ill. when he was 20, says the Encyclopedia Britannica. He later became the head of the Illinois Democratic Party and was elected U.S. senator in 1846 and again two more times, where he served until his death in 1861 in Chicago.
John M. Palmer (D)
John Palmer ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1896, which he eventually lost to William Jennings Bryan, who also was from Illinois (but lived in Nebraska at the time). He represented the faction of his party known as the "Gold Democrats," says Congress.gov, which the Independent Institute says advocated for free trade and the gold standard.
Palmer was born in Kentucky in 1817 and moved to Madison County, Ill. as a teenager. Before being elected governor of Illinois in 1869 (until 1873) as a Republican, he served as a state senator and unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Republican. After he switched to the Democratic party, he ran again for governor in 1888 and lost. He later was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1891, where he served until 1897. He died in Springfield in 1900.
William Jennings Bryan (D)
William Jennings Bryan ran for president three times, in 1896 (when he won the nomination), 1900 and 1908, but never made it to the White House. He was a Democrat from Nebraska who opposed the gold standard faction of his party. This position was known as the Free Silver Movement. Encyclopedia Britannica says some of his other causes were advocating for women's suffrage, the direct election of senators and the prohibition of alcohol.
Though most of Bryan's political career took place in Nebraska and Washington, D.C., he was born in Salem, Ill. in 1860 and lived in the state, working as a lawyer, until he was 27. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1890. He lost a Senate run in 1894. After his many presidential tries, he served as secretary of state under President Woodrow Wilson.
Carter Harrison Jr. (D)
Carter Harrison Jr. ran for president in 1904, but lost the Democratic nomination to Alton B. Parker, who eventually lost to President Theodore Roosevelt, says the website Texas on the Potomac.
The main part of Harrison's political career was spent following in his father's footsteps with his five terms as the first locally born mayor of Chicago. He held the office from 1897 to 1905, says the Chicago Public Library, and again from 1911 to 1915. He graduated from Loyola University Chicago and Yale University, ran the Chicago Times newspaper and served in France during World War I. He died in Chicago in 1953 and is buried in the city.
Joeseph G. Cannon (R)
Joseph Cannon lost the Republican nomination for president to William Howard Taft in 1908, says Texas on the Potomac. Taft eventually went on to defeat another Illinoisan, William Jennings Bryan, in that election.
Before launching his presidential bid, Cannon served as the U.S. Speaker of the House from 1903 to 1911, says the history section of House.gov. He first was elected to Congress in 1873 and served until 1923, when he declined to run again, says Congress.gov. He was born in North Carolina in 1836 and moved to Tuscola, Ill. when he was 23. He died in Danville in 1926. The Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C. is named for him.
To check out four more presidential candidates from Illinois who ran and lost, as well as four vice presidential candidates from Illinois, check out Reboot Illinois.
- Illinoisans mourn President Lincoln through funeral procession re-enactment 150 years later
- The connection between besmirched A. Schock and beloved A. Lincoln is stronger than you think
- Cartoon: Obama library a fitting tribute to Obama administration
- Top 25 best golf courses in Illinois
- Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool.