Lawmaker recalls path from farm to Statehouse

Longtime state legislator Charles “Chuck” Hartke remembers when Illinois politics were fiery, but not personal.

Hartke, who served in the Illinois House from 1985 to 2003, recounted how Rep. William “Bill” Black, a Danville Republican, expressed anger and frustration. “Black added to my collection of things he threw at me when I was (presiding) in the (chamber) chair. He was a real actor. But the next morning, we’d have breakfast together,” said the Democrat from Effingham.

Legislators debated different views and policies during committee hearings and legislative sessions, but would talk and socialize afterward, said Hartke.

“Maybe 2% of the bills were really controversial, not like it is today,” he said. “It’s so difficult today. Everyone is so divided in their opinions. I think, ‘Can’t we just get along?’”

Hartke shares stories from his 18-year term in the Statehouse and five years as Illinois director of agriculture as well as other adventures in a new book, “A Farm Boy’s Journey Into Politics.” Recently released, the book covers Hartke’s travels across Illinois and into China and Vietnam.

A question from his granddaughter, Jaelen Deters, sparked Hartke to compile some of the more than 400 stories and essays he had written. The girl wanted to know if her grandfather had served in the war. Told that he did, she then asked, “Was that in Europe or the Pacific?”

“No, Jaelen. I served in Vietnam. I’m not that old,” Hartke remembered. “Then I thought, my grandkids should know what I did.”

Hartke shares stories about growing up on a farm and attending a one-room schoolhouse — the same one attended by his mother, Sophia Hank Hartke.

His family hog farm near Teutopolis proved a touchstone when Hartke brought fellow legislators, especially those representing urban districts, to the country. Readers learn about the farm legislative tours and how those happened.

Included photos capture scenes over the years, including Hartke’s trip to China, and views of the state ag director at the Illinois State Fair.

Two August book signings are scheduled in Springfield during this year’s State Fair. The first will be Aug. 17 at Boone’s Salon, 301 W. Edwards St., followed by an Aug. 18 event at DH Brown’s, 231 E. Monroe St. Both will be from 1 to 5 p.m.

Hartke said additional book signings are being planned later, including one at the Effingham Public Library in the fall.

The book sells for $19.95 plus tax, shipping and handling. For more information or to order a copy, write Hartke at 20 Turnberry Place, Springfield, Illinois, 62704, or email

via FarmWeek Now

July 22, 2022 at 06:21AM

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