Mystery Swirls Around Former Southern Illinois Lawmaker 50 Years After His Death

Oct 12, 2020

When Paul Powell, a political legend in southern Illinois, died unexpectedly, he left behind a stunning secret: $800,000 in unexplained cash.

Powell's death came 50 years ago, on October 10, 1970, and days later, the executor of his estate discovered the money stuffed in containers, including shoeboxes, in Powell's suite at a Springfield hotel.

The Vienna native served as Speaker of the Illinois House twice and as Secretary of State. He was investigated by a grand jury for pushing legislation favorable to a horse racing company that he obtained stock in, but nothing came of it

Even in a state known for political corruption, it remains one of the more notorious — and mysterious — sources of political intrigue in history. It also pointed out the need for campaign-finance disclosure laws, and many of today's rules stem from the incident.