During his tenure as chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, Al Jourdan Jr. also headed the state's delegation to the 1988 national presidential nominating convention in New Orleans. He enjoyed the city so much he vowed to make a motion from the floor seeking to hold all future GOP presidential conventions there.
Jourdan, 82, a gregarious and sometimes boisterous icon of McHenry County politics who also served as state GOP chairman from 1988 to 1993, died Saturday at Centegra Hospital-McHenry. He was a resident of Johnsburg.
Jourdan served stints as the McHenry County Republican chairman and multiple terms as the county's auditor and was previously a director on the Regional Transportation Authority.
His chairmanship of the state GOP came during the final years of Republican Gov. James R. Thompson's administration and during Republican Gov. Jim Edgar's first term.
"Al was a good friend and a hard worker who helped me a great deal when I first took office as governor," Edgar said in a statement. "He was a dedicated public servant and probably one of the most important political figures to ever come from McHenry County."
Jourdan was general manager of his family's sausage-making business when he first became a McHenry Township precinct committeeman in 1961. In 1968, he became the county's GOP chairman and two decades later held the state chairmanship.
It was during Jourdan's term as state Republican chairman that his name was selected from a crystal bowl by then-Secretary of State George Ryan to serve as the critical lottery tie-breaker to determine which party would draw legislative maps following the 1990 federal census.
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As a result, Republicans gained a state Senate majority in 1993 that they held for a decade while also taking control of the state House for two years following the 1994 election. It was the only time since 1983 that Democratic Rep. Michael Madigan lost his House speakership and headed his party as a minority in the chamber.
"Al was a great Republican leader who guided many of us through the rough and tumble world of politics and government," said Angelo "Skip" Saviano, a former long-time GOP state lawmaker and current village president of Elmwood Park.
"He always offered sound advice and counsel designed to help new members of the General Assembly not only be effective lawmakers, but to grow into sound leaders. He loved Illinois, but he loved McHenry County most of all," Saviano said.
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Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Justen Funeral Home, 3700 W. Charles J. Miller Road in McHenry. Funeral services will be Friday, but details were still being finalized.
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