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John Henry Stelle (August 8, 1891 in McLeansboro, Illinois – July 5, 1962 in St. Louis, Missouri) was a U.S. political figure. He served as the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois for more than three and a half years in 1937-1940, and served as the 29th Governor of Illinois for three months in 1940-1941 upon the death of Governor Henry Horner in October 1940.

Biography

He attended Western Military Academy, and earned a law degree from Washington University in 1916. Stelle was a lifelong Democrat who served in World War I in the U.S. Army. He was a delegate to most of the Democratic National Conventions from 1928 to 1960. Stelle's first statewide office was as Treasurer, from 1935-1937. From there, he moved into the spot of lieutenant governor in 1937, keeping that job until Horner's death almost four years later. As Horner's three-month successor, Stelle served the second-shortest period in offiice in Illinois gubernatorial history (after William Lee D. Ewing).

Following his service as governor, John Stelle retuirned to the private sector. There, he helped advocate for the design and passage of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. According to his citation in the James Bryant Conant Award, "Stelle, a World War I veteran and past national commander of the American Legion, quarterbacked a team of Legion officials that, in the space of just six months, designed and put forth the main features of the GI Bill, organized massive public support and shepherded its successful passage through Congress. Stelle's leadership and behind-the-scens negotiating skills are widely credited for the legislation's surviving stubborn pockets of resistance, intense debate and a conference committee deadlock that nearly scuttled the bill at the 11th hour."

Late in life, he was a supporter of John F. Kennedy during his 1960 campaign for President of the United States, and assisted in forming a coalition of supporters from central Illinois. Kennedy, from personal accounts, credited that coalition with helping him win that pivotal state (by a narrow 11,000 vote margin).

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Death and honors

Upon his death, Stelle's body was taken back to McLeansboro for a funeral conducted by the Gholson Funeral Home and laid to rest in the McLeansboro City Cemetery. In 2002, Stelle won the James Bryant Conant Award posthumously by the Education Commission of the States.

The Stelle Mansion, one of the more notable buildings in McLeansboro, caught fire and burned down in 2005, destroying one of the last remnants of Stelle's life. Stelle's portrait may be found amongst the members of the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Donovan
Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
1937–1940
Succeeded by
Hugh Cross
Preceded by
Henry Horner
Governor of Illinois
1940–1941
Succeeded by
Dwight H. Green

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