Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Jim Ridings  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Non-Fiction

Born: 1950 Joliet, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

He lives in Herscher, Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Jim Ridings graduated from Southern Illinois University with a degree in journalism. He worked on daily newspapers in Ottawa and Aurora, Illinois, and won awards for investigative reporting at both newspapers. He has authored more than a dozen books of local history, which have won awards from the Illinois State Historical Society and the Illinois Humanities Council.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Ashpile
ISBN: 0966497422

Herscher, Il: Side Show Comics, 1991. 1991

Len Small: Governors and Gangsters
ISBN: 0982408005

Side Show Books, Herscher IL. 2009

Len Small was governor of Illinois during most of the 1920s. Almost all of Al Capone's career in Chicago happened at the same time, and there definitely was a tie between the governor and the gangster. In his second term as state treasurer from 1917 to 1919, Small embezzled more than a million dollars in a money-laundering scheme by depositing state money in a bank that did not exist! After becoming governor in 1921, Small was indicted for the embezzlement. He had his lawyers argue in court that as governor, he was above the law, citing the Divine Right of Kings. Their argument was, The King Can Do No Wrong. Small ran from the sheriff to avoid arrest, threatening to call out the National Guard to keep the sheriff away at the point of a bayonet. When he went to trial, jurors were bribed and intimidated by Al Capone's gangsters. Small was acquitted. Most of the jurors soon got state jobs. Another grand jury looked into jury tampering charges. Two gangsters who had bribed the jurors were granted immunity but still refused to testify. They were jailed for contempt of court -- and Governor Small quickly pardoned them. And even though a jury acquitted him in his criminal trial, a civil lawsuit brought by the state resulted in the Illinois Supreme Court forcing Governor Small to repay the state $650,000 of the money he stole. Governor Small sold thousands of pardons and paroles, including pardons to gangsters, murderers, white slavers and even cop killers. Some were sold by Len Small and his emissaries to Al Capone and to other mobsters. Some of the more notorious gangsters who bought their way out of prison were Harry Guzik, Fur Sammons and Bugs Moran. Small's administration operated a pardon mill where thousands of convicts could buy their way out of prison. When Small became governor, he wrecked the civil service system and brought back the spoils system, giving jobs based on politics rather than merit. He changed the utilities commission for the same political reasons. He tried to change the tax commission so that he could trades bribes for lower tax assessments. Small thwarted attempts at impeachment, and in one instance, he successfully had his Republican majority ram through a bill that exempted the present governor from the constitutional quo warranto provision for removal from office. If that wasn't enough, Len Small was a favorite of the Ku Klux Klan, which endorsed his campaigns in 1924, 1928 and 1932. Governor Small failed to send National Guard troops to prevent the Herrin Massacre in 1922 because he was too busy bribing his jury. When he left office in 1929, he stole the silverware and other valuables from the governor's mansion. The research for this book settles some debate and corrects some myths which have been accepted since the 1920s. For example, it has been accepted that the attorney general obtained an indictment against Small as revenge because the governor cut his budget. This is false. In fact, the opposite is true. Small cut the attorney general's budget to cut off funds for an investigation that was under way. The questions and myths surrounding the phony Grant Park Bank and the Good Roads Governor are addressed. The book also includes a chapter about George Ryan, another crooked governor from Kankakee whose corruption was massive. INDEX includes Alpiner, Altiere, Armour, Bauer, Birger, Blagojevich, Boyle, Browne, Brundage, Capone, Carlstrom, Cermak, Chicago SunTimes, Chicago Tribune, Crowe, Curtis, Daley, Deneen, Emmerson, Esposito, Faherty, Fink, Giancana, Granady, Grant Park, Guzik, Herrin, Hochstein, Jenkins, Kankakee, Kass, Kennedy, Kerner, Ku Klux Klan, Lorimer, Lowden, Lundin, McBroom, McCormick, McErlane, Messlein, Miller, Ness, Newmark, Nitti, OBanion, ODonnell, Potz, Ryan, Sammons, Serritella, Smith, Sterling, Stevens, Thompson, Torrio, Weiss, Wilkerson and more.

Kankakee Makes Good: A Second Volume Of Picture Postcards From Old Kankakee
ISBN: 0982408056

Side Show Books. 2007

This is the second, all-new volume of picture postcards from the early days of Kankakee, Illinois. The book is hardcover and the pictures are in full color on quality stock. This book also contains picture postcards from a few of the other towns in Kankakee County: Grant Park, St. Anne, Aroma Park, Bradley, Bourbonnais, Manteno, Momence, St. George, Hopkins Park, Waldron, Wichert.

Greetings From Ottawa: A Picture Postcard View Of Old Ottawa
ISBN: 0982408048

Side Show Books. 2006

This book contains picture postcard views of Ottawa, Illinois, from the early 1900s. The pictures are in full color and printed on high quality stock. Reddick Mansion, Washington Park, downtown Ottawa, the parks and many other rare views from a bygone era of the town.

Cardiff 2: A Further History of the Ghost Town on the Prairie
ISBN: 0982408021

Side Show Books. 2008

This book is a follow-up to the award-winning, Cardiff: Ghost Town on the Prairie. Cardiff was a boom coal-mining town in Illinois that roared from 1899 until the mine closed in 1912. It has been a ghost town since then. The book tells the amazing story of the town, its mine disasters, and the life of the people who lived there. Descendants from across the country were located and they told their family stories and gave their rare photographs of the people and the town. The book also includes the history and photographs of the other nearby coal mining ghost towns of Torino, Clarke City and Tracy, as well as a history of the town of Campus, Illinois. The first Cardiff book was very well-received. It was seen by so many people who were not contacted originally for the first volume, and so a second all-new volume was done. This book won an award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

County West Companion: A Further History of Western Kankakee County
ISBN: 0982408013

Side Show Books. 2005

This is a further history of the small towns in western Kankakee County, Illinois: Herscher, Irwin, Bonfield, Buckingham, Reddick, Union Hill, Cabery, Limestone, Goodrich, Essex. It is highly illustrated with hundreds of rare photographs. It also has a large amount of genealogy of many families in the county.

Memories of Reddick High School
ISBN: 0982408072

Side Show Books. 2002

Reddick High School in Reddick, Illinois, started in 1906 and closed its doors in 1988. This hardcover book contains numerous photographs from throughout the history of the school.

History of Herscher High School
ISBN: 0982408064

Side Show Books. 2001

This is the history of Herscher (Illinois) High School on its 100th anniversary. The book is a detailed history with lots of photographs. It also contains a list of school records (sports, prom queens, homecoming queens, class presidents, principals and more) and a list of all graduates from 1904 to 2001.

The family of Johann Mau
ISBN: B0006RJLR0

Side Show Books. 2000

Chicago to Springfield: Crime and Politics in the 1920s (Images of America)
ISBN: 0738583731

Arcadia Publishing. 2010

The story of Chicago gangsters in the 1920s is legendary. Less talked about is the tale of the politicians who allowed those gangsters to thrive. During the heyday of organized crime in the Prohibition era, Chicago mayor “Big Bill” Thompson and Gov. Len Small were the two most powerful political figures in Illinois. Thompson campaigned on making Chicago “a wide open town” for bootleggers. Small sold thousands of pardons and paroles to criminals, embezzled $1 million, and was then acquitted after mobsters bribed the jury. This book is the story of those Jazz Age politicians whose careers in government thrived on and endorsed corruption and racketeering, from Chicago to Springfield. It complements author Jim Ridings’s groundbreaking biography, Len Small: Governors and Gangsters, which was praised by critics and situated Ridings as a trailblazer among Chicago crime authors.

Greetings From Starved Rock
ISBN: 0982408099

Side Show Books. 2011

This book is a collection of picture postcards from Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. Most of the pictures are from the vintage postcard views of a century ago. Some cards have been enlarged slightly to show their detail and beautiful colors. Picture postcards were very popular a century ago. They contained only a brief, casual message -- sort of the equivalent of texting in that era. Starved Rock and adjacent Matthiessen State Park had quite a variety of postcard views, and both state parks are shown in the beautiful colors of the postcards of the era. This book is published on the 100th anniversary of Starved Rock becoming a state park.

Ottawa (Images of America)
ISBN: 0738588571

Arcadia Publishing. 2011

Ottawa is a city rich in history going back to the 1820s. It was the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, and even a famous Civil War general was from Ottawa. The city has an enormous heritage in its churches, schools, and neighborhoods and has created impressive strength in its business and industry over the years. Ottawa also has contributed more than its share of service in the defense of the nation. The I&M Canal, Reddick Mansion, the appellate court, the LaSalle County Courthouse, the Tent Colony, the nearby shipyard and glass factories, the rivers, and the area state parks all have been important and unique parts that comprise Ottawa.


Awards

-- County West, Cardiff and Cardiff 2 have won awards from the Illinois State Historical SocietyCardiff won a Studs Terkel Award from the Illinois Humanities Council in 2006