by Karl Kurtz
One of the heroes of the legislative strengthening movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Samuel K. Gove, died last week at age 87. The Illinois Constitution was rewritten in 1970 at a time when the national movement for legislative strengthening was at its height. Sam Gove, in his role as director of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) at the University of Illinois, advised the Constitutional Convention and strongly advocated the ideas and recommendations contained in "The Sometime Governments." Thanks to Sam and the timing of the constitutional revision, the national legislative strengthening movement had one of its greatest impacts in Illinois.
In my occasional interactions with Sam over the years, I held him in considerable awe for his knowledge of Illinois politics, his commitment to the legislative institution and his ability to bridge the gap between academics and practical politics. Here are a few excerpts from his obituary on the IGPA web site:
Gove was active behind the scenes in Illinois state government for years. He directed the legislative staff intern program from 1962-73, was a member of several commissions and advisory boards and served on the Illinois Board of Higher Education. He also was a member of the transition teams for Governors Dan Walker and Jim Edgar.
“Sam was one of my mentors,” Edgar said. “If it hadn’t been for Sam Gove, there may not have been a legislative intern program and that was my entry (into public service).”
Gove founded Illinois Issues with Paul Simon and Samuel Witwer in 1975. He was founding chairman and served on the magazine's advisory board for 28 years.
“He was the embodiment of Illinois government,” said former Illinois legislator and comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, a longtime friend. “He understood how all these pieces fit together (politically) but then always was involved in how it should work. He knew how to suggest things that would help to make it work better.”