February 13, 2024

Illinoisan of the Year

The family of Molly Hall accepts her Illinoisan of the Year Award during the INBA Fall Convention in Champaign in September 2023.

Each fall, the INBA names an Illinoisan of the Year, someone who has made a significant contribution to Illinois, its citizens, the news profession and public information. INBA Past Presidents make the nominations and then cast votes.

Here is a list of the winners: (asterisk indicates award was later rescinded)

1959 – Wayman Presley, Makanda – for efforts to erect a 111-foot tall cross on top of Bald Knob in Shawnee National Forest

1960 – Oliver Keller, Jr. – 36-year-old Chair of the Illinois Youth Commission   

1961 – No award

1962 – Arthur J. Goldberg – Associate Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, President John Kennedy’s Labor Secretary

1963 – No award

1964 – Dr. Richard G. Browne – Executive Director of the State Board of Higher Education, helped create Illinois community colleges

1965 – Adlai Stevenson II – posthumously – Illinois Governor, U. S. Ambassador to UN

1966 – Timothy J. Nugent – director of Rehabilitation/Education Services for the U of I

1967 – No award

1968* – Ralph Newman – Illinois Sesquicentennial Commission Co-chair – author and prominent Lincoln scholar. Award rescinded in 2021 – convicted in November, 1975 for preparing a false affidavit that helped Richard Nixon obtain an illegal tax break on papers he donated

1969 – No award

1970 – Samuel Witwer – Chair of the Illinois Constitutional Convention

1971 – Al Orton – retired Chief of the Chicago Bureau for the Associated Press

1972 – Dee Brown – author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

1973 – John Bardeen – Univ. of Illinois physicist and two-time Nobel prize winner

1974 – Michael J. Howlett – Illinois Secretary of State and former state auditor

1975 – James Thompson – U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois

1976 – No award

1977 – Saul Bellow and Milton Friedman – Univ. of Chicago professors/authors

1978-87 – Award suspended – no record as to why.           

1988 – Seymour Simon – retired Illinois Supreme Court justice, supporter of 1st Amendment rights & cameras and mics in the courts – former Cook County Board Chair

1989 – Bill Miller – former WTAX news director, started Capitol Information Bureau, director of PAR program at Sangamon State University, INBA charter member

1990 – August C. Meyer – founder and owner of Midwest Television (WCIA-TV, WMBD-TV, WMBD-AM/FM)

1991 – Shawn Denney – OMA/FOIA assistant in the Illinois Attorney General’s office

1992 – Robert Cronson – Illinois Auditor General

1993 – Paul Davis – past president of INBA, SPJ and RTNDA, long time news director at WCIA-TV, Champaign, and WGN-TV, Chicago

1994 – Jim Craven – attorney handling OMA/FOIA matters and legal hotline for INBA

1995 – Paul Simon – U. S. Senator, sponsored Open Meetings Act legislation when in the state legislature, helped start Public Affairs Reporting Program at then Sangamon State University

1996 – John Chancellor – (posthumously) NBC Nightly News anchor 1970-1982

1997 – Carol Marin – Chicago anchor who quit her job in protest over Jerry Springer editorials being aired during her newscast and who fought management over the difference between legitimate news and commercialized news

1998 – Dennis Swanson – GM at WNBC-TV in NYC; former WLS-TV Executive; former president of ABC Sports; credited with creating the Oprah Winfrey Show

1999* – Dennis Hastert – Congressman from Yorkville, 14th Congressional Dist. (Award rescinded in 2020 – he was convicted of financial crimes related to repeated incidents of child molestation)

2000 – Bill Rutherford – founded Wildlife Prairie Park in Peoria County to showcase animals native to Illinois, past director of Illinois Department of Conservation

2001 – Barbara Flynn Currie – state representative from Chicago who sponsored bills favorable to OMA and FOIA

2002 – Orion Samuelson – agriculture reporter for 40 years at WGN, Chicago

2003 – Larry Marshall – director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions

2004 – Jim Thompson – repeat winner (1975) – now for his 9/11 commission work

2005 – Illinois National Guard and Reserves – for efforts in war and natural disasters

2006 – Patrick Fitzgerald – U. S. Attorney for northern Illinois, for his investigation into Operation Safe Roads (Secretary of State’s office under George Ryan) and into leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name in D.C.

2007 – Charlie Wright – former owner of WBYS, Canton, for his long-time commitment to news

2008 – Mike Lawrence – Director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIU-C

2009 – Jim Edgar – Secretary of State (1981-91), Governor (1991-1999), and distinguished fellow at the U of I’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs

2010 – Don Brown – primary force behind the formation of INBA; INBA’s first executive secretary (9 years); coordinated news clinics for 7 years at the Univ. of Illinois prior to INBA’s formation. An INBA scholarship is named for him.

2011 – Lisa Madigan – Illinois Attorney General – for supporting the creation of the position of Public Access Counselor in the AG’s office and her role in the re-write of the Freedom of Information Act

2012 – Thomas Kilbride – Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court – for opening trial courts to cams and mics; for defending openness of records on the internet

2013 – Paul Davis – (repeat winner 1993) – for overall commitment to broadcast news, including his presidency of INBA, RTNDA (now RTDNA) and SPJ

2014 – Kent Redfield – emeritus professor of political science at the U of I Springfield, director of the Sunshine Project, a campaign finance research project

2015 – William Holland – Illinois Auditor General – revealed problems with Rod Blagojevich officials skirting rules for contract bidding, how the Pat Quinn Neighborhood Recovery Initiative didn’t “adequately monitor” how state grant money was spent, how the Illinois Lottery had “material weaknesses” in its financial controls, established fraud hotline in 2012 to report corruption

2016 – Abner Mikva – (posthumously) – State Representative, Congressman, federal appeals judge, White House counsel under President Clinton, chair of the state human rights commission and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

2017 – Courtroom Media Coordinators – group of media members who administer and monitor cameras and microphones in trial courts in Illinois

2018 – Edwin Eisendrath – former Chicago alderman; assembled a group of investors to buy the Sun-Times and was named CEO – vowed his labor union-backed group will not interfere with the news or editorial pages

2019 – Charles “Charlie” Wheeler III – 24-year reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times,

the last 19 of which he worked at the paper’s statehouse bureau; 26-year director of the Public Affairs Program at University of Illinois-Springfield; retired in 2019

2020 – Dr. Ngozi Ezike – Director, Illinois Department of Public Health – for her unwavering advice in both English and Spanish on how to cope with COVID-19

2021 – Adam Kinzinger – Republican Congressman (16th district) – for voting against the majority of congressional Republicans to impeach former President Trump in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, named by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to sit on the U.S. House select committee investigating the insurrection

2022 – co-winners: AISLE (Association of Illinois School Library Educators) for promoting passage of the 2022 Media Literacy Law which amended the school code to require media literacy be taught in public high schools in Illinois
* Dr. Yonty Friesem – Associate Professor, Columbia College, for providing content to and promotion of the passage of the 2022 Media Literacy Law
* Dr. Michael Spikes – Lecturer, Northwestern University, for developing a framework for implementation of the 2022 Media Literacy Law

2023 – Molly Hall – (posthumously) worked for WTAX, Springfield and WCIA-TV, Champaign, past president of INBA (1989), Executive Director of the Energy Education Council, a national nonprofit