Len Small

Lennington "Len" Small (June 16, 1862 – May 17, 1936) was an American politician. He served as the 26th Governor of Illinois, from 1921 to 1929. He also served as a member of the Illinois state senate from the 16th District from 1901 to 1903 and was Illinois state treasurer, from 1905 to 1907, and from 1917 to 1919.

Len Small
26th Governor of Illinois
In office
January 10, 1921  January 14, 1929
LieutenantFred E. Sterling
Preceded byFrank O. Lowden
Succeeded byLouis L. Emmerson
33rd and 39th Treasurer of Illinois
In office
GovernorFrank O. Lowden
Preceded byFred E. Sterling
Succeeded byAndrew Russel
In office
GovernorCharles S. Deneen
Preceded byFred A. Busse
Succeeded byJohn F. Smulski
Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 20th district
In office
1902 (1902)  1904 (1904)
Preceded byre-districted
Succeeded byEdward C. Curtis
Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 16th district
In office
1900 (1900)  1902 (1902)
Preceded byIsaac Miller Hamilton
Succeeded byre-districted
Personal details
Born(1862-06-16)June 16, 1862
Kankakee County, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 1936(1936-05-17) (aged 73)
Kankakee, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Ida Moore
Alma materValparaiso University

Early life

Small was born in Kankakee County, Illinois, and was educated in the public schools. He attended Northern Indiana Normal School, now Valparaiso University.[1] He taught school and invested in real estate, eventually owning a farm, a bank, and Kankakee's daily newspaper. In 1883, Small married Ida Moore, and they had three children together.[2]

Political career

Small began his political career in 1901 when he became a member of the Illinois Senate. He served in the Illinois Senate from 1901 to 1905.[3]

Small was the Illinois Treasurer from 1905 to 1907, and again from 1917 to 1919. He was indicted, six months after becoming governor, for embezzling over a million dollars in a money-laundering scheme in which he misplaced state funds into a fake bank while he was state treasurer.[4] He served as the assistant U.S. Treasurer in charge of the sub treasury at Chicago from 1908 to 1912, and was a delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois in 1908, 1912, and 1932.

Small was elected Governor of Illinois in 1920 and was reelected in 1924. He was acquitted, but eight jurors later got state jobs, raising suspicions of jury tampering.[5]

As governor, Small pardoned 20 members of the Communist Labor Party of America, convicted under the Illinois Sedition Act. He also pardoned or paroled over 1000 convicted felons, including Harry Guzik, brother of the Chicago Outfit's Jake Guzik, of Posen, Illinois, who was convicted of kidnapping young girls and forcing them into lives of prostitution (then commonly called white slavery).[6]

In 1923, bootlegger Edward "Spike" O'Donnell of Southside Chicago O'Donnell was released from prison by Small. O'Donnell returned to Chicago as the leader of one of the most powerful bootlegging gangs in the city.[7]

Small's reputation for corruption finally caught up with him at the ballot box when he was defeated in the 1928 Republican "Pineapple Primary" by a margin of 63% to 37% against Louis Lincoln Emmerson, the incumbent Illinois Secretary of State. Small would make a failed run for governor in 1932.


Small died on May 17, 1936. He is buried at Mound Grove Cemetery in Kankakee, Illinois.


  1. "Illinois Governor Lennington Small". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  2. "Lennington Small". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  3. "Small, Lennington (1862-1936)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
  4. Ridings, Jim (2010). Chicago to Springfield: Crime and Politics in the 1920s. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 31.
  5. Benzkofer, Stephan (June 19, 2011). "Len Small: Perhaps the Dirtiest Illinois Governor of Them All". Chicago Tribune. Chicago: Tribune Co. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
  6. Hoffman, Dennis E. (2010). Scarface Al and the Crime Crusaders: Chicago's Private War Against Capone. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press. p. 129. ISBN 0809330040.
  7. Keefe, Rose (2003). Guns and Roses: The Untold Story of Dean O'Banion, Chicago's Big Shot Before Al Capone. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House Publishing. p. 149. ISBN 1581823789.

Further reading

  • Kobler, John. Capone. Da Capo Press of Perseus Books Group, New York. 2003. p. 79. ISBN 0306812851
  • Ridings, Jim. Len Small: Governors and Gangsters. Side Show Books, Herscher IL. 2009. ISBN 0982408005

This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard

Political offices
Preceded by
Fred A. Busse
Treasurer of Illinois
Succeeded by
John F. Smulski
Preceded by
Andrew Russel
Treasurer of Illinois
Succeeded by
Fred E. Sterling
Preceded by
Frank O. Lowden
Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
Louis L. Emmerson
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