‘My time had come’: IL Secretary of State Jesse White hopes to help young people during retirement


CHICAGO (WLS) — They’ve been flying through the air doing aerial gymnastics for more than six decades, and Jesse White has been actively leading his tumblers for all of those years.

He has helped more than 18,000 young men go on to college and become successful adults, all while keeping his day jobs, and he’s had a few of them. They range from his first career as a professional baseball player, to his time with the 101st Airborne Division as a paratrooper, to his teaching career, which included more than 30 years with Chicago Public Schools.

And then, it was on to politics. He was first in the General Assembly for 14 years and then went to the secretary of state’s office.

“When I went to the Democratic Party at first, I was told not to waste my time,” White said.

White said he campaigned 14 to 16 hours a day to become the state’s first African American secretary of state. He vowed to modernize the office and root out the corruption that he said was part of the culture.

SEE ALSO | Illinois secretary of state candidates talk about vision in replacing Jesse White

He’s now completing his sixth term. He has held the office longer than anyone. It’s a run that will come to an end in early January when, at 88 years old, he will retire.

“I teach my young people to love their fellow man. Never discriminate because of race, creed or color,” White said.

White credits those who taught him discipline as a child to his political mentors. He said he learned the importance of public service, and he has spent his life giving back.

ABC7 was with him on Monday afternoon when his friend, Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, gave a surprise tribute on the Senate floor on the eve of White’s retirement.

“Doing his part to build our community, earning his reputation as our state’s most beloved politician,” Durbin said.

It is likely just one of many tributes White will enjoy as his days as secretary of state come to an end. But, his dedication to public service will continue.

“I felt as though my time had come. So, I’m going to devote the rest of my life to helping young people,” White said.

The name on his door is going to change very soon, but White plans to meet with incoming Secretary Alexi Giannoulias next week to help with his transition into the office.

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December 5, 2022 at 05:54PM

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