Sen. William R. Haine dies Monday, leaves lengthy, strong legacy

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ALTON — Sen. William R. Haine, 77, died Monday morning.

Haine’s first political office was as a Madison County Board member in 1978. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in 2018, but he said he had already made up his mind he was not going to run for re-election when his term is up that November, before he was diagnosed.

At age 74, the Vietnam veteran who earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service, said he was ready to spend time with his seven children, 33 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Haine shared the story of his journey from diagnosis of multiple myeloma, including chemotherapy treatment and stem cell replacement, at a special celebration of cancer survivorship hosted by OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center in September 2018. At the time, he had been in remission.

But his first run for office was about 10 years before that, while serving in the U.S. Army’s 1st Air Cavalry Division. He was sitting in a tent when he decided to run for an aldermanic seat in Alton.

“I got a letter from a good friend who was active in city politics who wanted me to run for alderman. I’m literally in a hooch in Vietnam,” he said during an interview with The Telegraph in 2017. “I didn’t know it at the time, but the 1st Cav was staging to invade Cambodia, which happened the next spring.”

Haine was out of the Army by the time of that invasion.

“I thought ‘Why not,’” he said. “I was on R and R in Hong Kong, and I went to the consulate and had this official notarize them (his nominating petitions), mailed them in and got on the ballot.”

He was eventually beaten.

State Board of Elections mourns death of member former state Sen. William Haine

The Intelligencer

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Elections issued the following statement regarding the death of William R. Haine.

Haine, D-Alton, died Monday at the age of 77.

A former four-term Madison County State’s Attorney and state senator representing parts of the Metro East, Haine was appointed to the State Board of Elections’ eight-member board as a Democrat in July 2019.

“As a former lawmaker, member Haine had a particular acumen for helping develop the agency’s legislative agenda,” said Acting Executive Director Bernadette Matthews. “He will be greatly missed both for his deep knowledge and his friendly demeanor.”

The board’s chair and vice-chair also praised Haine.

“Member Haine possessed a wisdom matched only by his wit and charm,” said Chair Ian Linnabary. “His board service, though relatively brief, was marked by the insights of a man who lived a rich, full life. We will all miss him.”

Another member recalled their last conversation.

“I was finally able to speak directly with him just last week,” said board Vice-Chair Casandra B. Watson. “Prior thereto, I would leave our messages of support and encouragement with his wife, Anna. It was truly a pleasure to work with him as a member of the State Board of Elections. He will be missed.”

By Illinois law, Gov. J.B. Pritzker will appoint Haine’s replacement on the eight-member board within 30 days. The board is made up of four members of each party appointed by the Illinois governor.

The State Board of Elections is an independent state agency charged with the responsibility of having general supervision over the administration of election laws of the state of Illinois. Elections are administered locally by the state’s 108 election authorities.

“I lost, but it was a good loss. I shouldn’t have run in the first place. It was a lark, the good Lord took care of me by getting my ass kicked by this guy.”

Haine noted his opponent was a good alderman, who later supported him in other campaigns.

Haine was elected to the Madison County Board in 1978, and also was appointed chairman of the Madison County Transit (MCT) District’s board.

While heading the MCT, Haine was known for his fierce opposition to the then Bi-State Development Agency, which was operating bus service in Madison County at the time.

He was first elected Madison County State’s Attorney in 1988, serving until winning a special election to fill the remaining term of state Sen. Evelyn M. Bowles, who had resigned early, with the idea that taking over her seat would give him a slight seniority advantage over those taking office after the regular election.

As chair of MCT, Haine started attracting attention — in large part because of his constant battles with the Bi-State Development Agency, which ran the county’s bus service at the time.

“I represented a district in Alton that was transit dependent, elderly white people and poor African Americans,” he said.

MCT was able to establish separate bus service, as well as expand other offerings, like, door-to-door service for the elderly and disabled, and the county’s extensive bike trail system.

“It’s been a model agency,” he said.

He decided to run for State’s Attorney because, “The office was near collapse, and I could make a difference.”

The previous states attorneys, the late Dick Allen, a Democrat, and Don Weber, a Republican, had difficult terms.

“He had a poor idea of what the office was supposed to do,” Haine said of Allen. “Before him, Don was a first-rate prosecutor (although highly controversial at times), and he was beat in 1984.”

By the time Haine left to go to the senate in 2002, he said the office was “first-rate.”

“We had gun issues and we turned it around,” he said. “We established the first drug court in the state, now there’s 20 or more.

“I was very proud of my tenure as state’s attorney,” he said. “I left on a high note and we made it into a model office. I improved the administration of justice from the time I came in to when I left.”

His son, Tom Haine, R-Alton, currently is serving as the Madison County State’s Attorney.

“Bill has often told me it was one of the proudest moments of his life when he was able to swear Tom in as State’s Attorney last December,” said Madison County Treasurer Chris Slusser, R-Wood River.

As a state senator, Haine said he was “very active.”

“I’m considered a working senator,” he said.

Haine said he felt one of his greatest accomplishments was legislation to create the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers threatened to decertify the region’s levees.

He also noted that legislation required a great deal of cooperation from Republicans.

“I couldn’t have passed it without Frank (Sen. Frank Watson), because a lot of Democrats wouldn’t vote for it,” he said. “We needed Republican votes in the Senate.

“Frankly, I think it’s my proudest piece of work in the senate, and I had a number of successes.”

Haine’s term ended in January 2019.

Haine was honored in November of 2018 with a retirement resolution in the Illinois State Senate.

The resolution detailed the highlights of Haine’s public service career, including his 16 years in the Illinois Senate, 14 years as Madison County State’s Attorney and service as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile in Vietnam from 1967 to 1969.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of the 56th Senate District and Madison County for all of these years,” Haine said at that time. “I appreciate their faith in re-electing me to represent them in the Illinois Senate and as a prosecutor in Madison County.”

Some of the top highlights of Haine’s tenure in the senate include:

• spearheading a sweeping plan to modernize the levee system in the Metro East, which helped protect homes and businesses from damage in recent years’ flooding,

• maintaining state investment to allow the Edwardsville campus of Southern Illinois University to continue to expand,

• leading a successful effort to approve a Constitutional Amendment to protect the state’s Road Fund from being raided for non-transportation related spending, and

• rallying the Illinois Senate to protest China’s dumping of low-quality cheap steel to protect jobs at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works, an integrated steel plant in Granite City.

But Haine cited his greatest accomplishment as his marriage to Anna, and the family they built together. Haine’s retirement plans included spending time with his his entire family, including grandchildren and great grandchild.

The Haine family released the following statement Monday about the senator’s passing:

“Strengthened by the sacraments of the Catholic Church and with his beloved wife of 50 years, Anna, by his side, passed away early in the morning on Aug. 16 after the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.

“In this time of great sorrow, we feel great joy in knowing that Bill, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, died peacefully. He was to the end a man of deep and committed faith in Jesus Christ, surrounded by the songs and prayers of his family, to whom he had offered every ounce of his care and devotion.

“Though we have every hope that Bill has now joined all the angels and saints in the Kingdom of God for eternity, please continue to pray for his eternal salvation and the comfort of his family, who will miss him greatly.”

Chief Judge Bill Mudge with Madison County’s Third Judicial Circuit also released a statement about the retired senator’s death.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Haine family as we mourn his loss,” Mudge said in the prepared statement.

“Bill touched the lives of many judges in this circuit as a friend, mentor or boss. His work as a Madison County board member, Madison County State’s Attorney and senator was exemplary. He will be greatly missed by us all.”

The Madison County Democratic Party also issued a statement.

“A tireless advocate for working families and the Metro East will be missed and remembered by all those who knew him,” read the statement.

“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Haine,” said Madison County Democratic Party Chair Randy Harris.

“Bill was a tireless advocate for working families and the entire Metro East. Bill had a passion for helping and making a difference in people’s everyday lives. His dedication to both his faith and family was to be admired and celebrated. Bill was a true warrior and champion for our region, and we will all sorely miss him. On behalf of the Madison County Democratic Party, we offer our condolences to his family, friends, and all those who knew and loved him.”

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August 16, 2021 at 08:02PM

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