Former Jacksonville City Attorney and Downstate Lawmaker Jim Reilly Dies

By Benjamin Cox on April 4, 2022 at 9:11pm

Photo Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Musuem Collection - Gov. Jim Edgar Project

A former Jacksonville City Attorney and Winchester Grade School Teacher who became one of Downstate Illinois’ most well-known lawmakers in the late 1970s has died. Jim Reilly was 77.

Reilly grew up in Springfield, graduating from Springfield High School. He moved to Jacksonville in 1962 and graduated from Illinois College in 1967. From there, he would go on to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972. Reilly would return to Jacksonville and become the City Attorney in the 1970s. During this time, Reilly also worked as an aide to Chicago Republican State Representative George Burditt and taught at Winchester Grade School for 2 years.

In 1976, Reilly was elected to the Illinois General Assembly as one of 3 representatives from the then 49th District. According to several sources, it was during this time that Reilly started his close political relationship with Jim Edgar.

In 1983, Governor Jim Thompson selected Reilly to serve as his Chief of Staff, a position he retained through 1989. Reilly returned to the post for his old friend Jim Edgar in his re-election bid in 1994. According to the Chicago Tribune, Reilly was one of Edgar’s trusted advisors during his recovery from emergency quadruple-bypass heart surgery that year.

Reilly is also largely regarded as one of the driving forces in creating Navy Pier in Chicago the tourist attraction it is today. He was also a part of several civic boards, even heading the City of Chicago’s convention and tourism bureau for a time.

Reilly is survived by his wife of 30 years, Veronica Lynch.