CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, known as ‘œBig Jim’ during a long career that eventually made him the state’s longest-serving chief executive, has died. He was 84.
Thompson died shortly after 8 p.m. Friday at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago, his wife, Jayne, told the Chicago Tribune . The Tribune, citing a police report, reported Thompson had been recovering there for several weeks after suffering heart problems.
“It was very sudden,” said wife Jayne Thompson, her voice breaking. “I was told that his heart simply stopped.”
Thompson died shortly after 8 p.m. Friday at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in downtown Chicago, his wife said.
Medical staff were summoned to his room after he suffered apparent cardiac arrest at 7:46 p.m., according to a Chicago police report. Medical staff “immediately” performed CPR, but he was pronounced dead at 8:07 p.m., the report said. Chicago Fire Department paramedics also tried to revive him.
Thompson, a Republican from Chicago, was first elected governor in 1976 and was re-elected for four consecutive terms, an Illinois record.
Thompson, who stood 6′6 and was known as Big Jim, served as governor until January of 1991. He had been the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and had prosecuted former governor Otto Kerner on corruption charges.