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Rod Blagojevich (1956- ) Papers

Identifier: 31/6/241

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  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Rod Blagojevich Papers are arranged into the following series: biographical and personal records; general political documents; Illinois House of Representatives, 33rd District; United States House of Representatives, Illinois’ 5th Congressional District; governorship of Illinois; impeachment and imprisonment; correspondence; opposition research files; Mila "Millie" Blagojevich; photographic prints, negatives, and slides; books; audiovisual materials; digital materials; artifacts; and oversize materials.

The biographical and personal series (boxes 1 through 6) spans the period from 1962 to 2021. It consists of items pertaining to Rod Blagojevich's education, including schoolwork from Chicago public schools he attended and his Illinois bar exam study notes. Included are also documents relating to Chicago's 33rd, 40th and 47th Ward. Materials are organized into a chronological arrangement. Items within each folder have been placed in chronological order.

Boxes 7 through 11 contain a variety of general political documents such as speeches and quotes of historical figures; newspaper coverage concerning Blagojevich; postal addresses of Serbian churches and their congregants; business cards, contact lists and informational materials relating to acquaintances; papers documenting the economic and educational conditions in Illinois; and campaign materials and voting tabulations relating to various Illinois politicians. The series spans the period from 1910 through 1994. Folders in this series are arranged first chronologically, when dates are known, and then topically.

Illinois House of Representatives, 33rd District records (boxes 12 through 15) consist of materials relating to the beginning of Rod Blagojevich’s political career after winning the Democratic primary and serving one term in the Illinois House. Materials consist of campaign disclosure documents; political flyers; newspaper articles; House bills and amendments; and contributions reports. This series spans the period from 1992 through 1996. Folders are arranged by topical headings in alphabetical order. Items within folders are chronologically arranged.

Boxes 15 through 62 contain materials on Rod Blagojevich’s step from state to national politics and his career as a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Illinois' 5th Congressional District. Included are documents relating to State of Illinois fiscal matters and its relationship with the federal government; health care; children, school, and teacher programs; gun and environmental laws; House bills; fundraising events; and campaign contributor documentation. This series spans the years from 1993 to 2002. Folders are arranged in chronological order and then by topical headings.

Records related to Rod Blagojevich's campaign, election and re-election to Governorship of Illinois are housed in boxes 62 through 86 and span the period from 2001 to 2009. Materials include speeches; appointment calendars; documents relating to campaign budgets and contributions; fundraising events and receptions; voter lists and analyses; legislation; Friends of Blagojevich (a campaign support organization) documents; and political strategy documents. Folders are arranged by their headings in alphabetical order, and items within each folder are arranged chronologically.

Copies and originals of legal documents related to Rod Blagojevich's impeachment and imprisonment are in box 87. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by topical headings. A portion of this series consists of letters and cards that Rod Blagojevich received in prison; those are arranged alphabetically by the surnames of correspondents and are housed in boxes 88 through 98. This series includes the years from 2008 through 2021.

Correspondence (letters, cards, and postcards), largely incoming and written by Rod Blagojevich’s associates, friends, and neighbors; by family members; and by prominent individuals, particularly political figures, fill boxes 99 through 108. Folders are arranged alphabetically by the surnames of correspondents. This series spans the period from 1976 through 2021.

Boxes 109 through 112 contain opposition research files on Rod Blagojevich's Republican opponent for the governorship of Illinois, Judy Baar Topinka. Prominent within this series are reports and research analyses of Baar Topinka’s earlier work as treasurer of the State of Illinois. Folders in this series are arranged in chronological order and then by topic and span the period from 1994 to 2006.

Materials related to Blagojevich's mother Mila Blagojevich fill boxes 113 through 116 and consist mainly of sympathy cards that the family received after her passing on January 8, 1999. This series spans the period from 1991 to 1999. Folders are arranged in chronological order.

Color and black and white photographic prints, negatives, and slides are arranged in boxes 116 through 134. This series spans the period from 1955 to 2010. It includes pictures pertaining to Blagojevich's personal and professional life, such as press conferences; speeches; 4th of July parades in Chicago neighborhoods; campaigns; and events. Also included are head shots and photographs of family members. These are arranged principally by photographic format and chronology.

One box (135) contains books on various topics, including Blagojevich’s personal life (including his amateur boxing career), public policy; politics; and history. Items are arranged alphabetically by authors’ surnames.

Audiovisual materials relating to Blagojevich's life and career, including television news appearances, fill box 136 (audio- and microcassettes); boxes 137-145 (CDs and DVDs); boxes 146-168 (VHS cassettes); and box 169 (audiotapes) and span the period from 1995 to 2008. All materials are arranged chronologically by date of events.

Digital materials (box 170) consist of 3.5-inch floppy disks and one flash drive and span the years 1997 through 2002.

Boxes 171 through 187 contain artifacts which span the period from 1979 to 2007. Included in this series are both general and political campaigns artifacts (flyers, t-shirts, key chains, magnets, stickers and other promotional materials); Rolodexes and address records of associates; plaques and awards; campaign buttons and pins; and personal objects as well as a collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia (Blagojevich was noted for his appreciation of Presley’s music); and banners. Items within this category are arranged in subcategories as mentioned above, and then according to descriptive identification in alphabetical order by key descriptive terms.

Oversized materials, located in boxes 188 through 204, consist of diplomas, certificates, and awards; signs and posters; newspapers; photographs; textiles; and one oil painting and span the period from 1983 to 2020. Items placed into dropfront and tubular boxes are arranged largely according to physical format and, within format categories, when possible, by date.


  • 1955 - 2021


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Box 205 contains sensitive materials. Consultation with the University Archivist required prior to use.

Biographical / Historical

Rod Blagojevich was born on December 10, 1956, on the northwest side of Chicago. He is the second son of Milorad (Rade) B. Blagojevich and Mila (Govedarica) Blagojevich. Blagojevich’s father was a soldier in the Yugoslav army during WW II and spent four years in a Nazi prisoner of war camp. Rade was brought to the United States after the war by the Serbian Orthodox Church of Libertyville, Illinois, held a variety of unskilled jobs, and ultimately worked as a laborer for steelmaker A. Finkl and Sons. He married Mila, who worked as a ticket taker for the Chicago Transit Authority, in 1950. Son Rob was born in 1955 and Rod the following year. The family spoke Serbian at home. The boys attended Henry D. Lloyd Elementary School and worked a variety of odd jobs to contribute financially to the family.

Blagojevich attended Lane Technical High School and then transferred to Foreman High School, graduating in 1975. He played basketball in high school, and was an amateur boxer, training under the Chicago Park District’s Jerry Marzillo and Pat LaCassa, from 1974 to 1975. He fought in eight amateur boxing matches, winning seven, including two bouts in the Chicago Golden Gloves amateur tournament.

After high school, Blagojevich attended the University of Tampa, where his older brother, Rob, played baseball. He transferred to Northwestern University after his sophomore year and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Northwestern in 1979. He worked for a year as a Serbo-Croatian interpreter for the Cook County court system to earn money for law school, and then attended Pepperdine Law School, earning his Juris Doctor degree in 1983.

Upon graduating from law school, Blagojevich worked as a law clerk for Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak and later served as a Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney under State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley. In 1990, he married Patricia Mell. They have two daughters.

Blagojevich’s career in politics began in 1992, when he defeated Myron Kulas in the Democratic primary for the 33rd state house district of the Illinois House of Representatives. At that time, the 33rd district included part of Chicago’s North Side. As the prevailing Democratic candidate, he was successful in the general election. He served one term in the Illinois House.

In 1996, Blagojevich was elected to the United States House of Representatives for Illinois’ 5th congressional district. He was re-elected twice, serving three two-year terms in Congress, from 1997 to 2003. During his tenure as a United States Congressman, Blagojevich sponsored bills focused on educational improvements. He also was active in efforts to address gun violence and improve transportation.

In 1999, during the Kosovo Conflict of 1998-1999, Blagojevich was part of a contingent, led by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, that traveled to Yugoslavia to negotiate for the release of three American soldiers being held prisoner. The soldiers had been captured while participating in a NATO force of proposed peacekeepers for Kosovo. The negotiations with President Slobodan Milosevic were ultimately successful and resulted in the release of the three Americans.

In 2002, Blagojevich began campaigning for the Democratic nomination for the governorship of Illinois. While in recent history a Republican-dominated seat, the tenure of the incumbent governor, George Ryan, had been rocked by scandals, and Ryan was not seeking re-election. Blagojevich narrowly prevailed in the Democratic primary, and defeated the Republican candidate, Jim Ryan, in the general election. He took office in January of 2003 and served two terms as governor of Illinois.

As governor, Blagojevich supported many progressive causes, such as a continued moratorium on the death penalty, a statewide smoking ban and various health care initiatives. He backed a new ethics law establishing an independent inspector general, mandating ethics training for state employees and restricting “revolving door” opportunities (where state employees would accept jobs with companies they had regulated immediately upon leaving state service.) During his tenure, Illinois commenced a state-subsidized health care program for all Illinois children and a “pre-school for all” program. He also implemented several notable transportation initiatives, including highway improvements, open road tolling and free bus rides for senior citizens.

In December of 2008, federal agents arrested Blagojevich at his home on corruption charges filed by the United States Department of Justice. Among the allegations was a “pay to play” scheme whereby Blagojevich allegedly sought personal gain in the exercise of his authority to appoint a successor to the United States Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama following his election as U.S. President. Blagojevich maintained his innocence, and a trial on the charges was scheduled for June 2010.

On January 8, 2009, the Illinois House voted to impeach Blagojevich. On January 29, 2009, he was formally removed from office, and prohibited from holding any future public office in Illinois, by two separate votes of the Illinois Senate. His lieutenant governor, Patrick Quinn, became governor and served out the remainder of Blagojevich’s second term.

A federal grand jury formally indicted Blagojevich on twenty-four counts of alleged corruption, most relating to the Obama senate seat, in April of 2009. His trial commenced in June 2010. After several weeks of trial, on August 17, 2010, he was convicted on just one of the twenty-four counts, that of making a false statement to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The jury deadlocked on the other twenty-three charges.

The federal government then dropped certain charges and Blagojevich was re-tried, beginning in April of 2011, on twenty remaining counts. On June 27, 2011, Blagojevich was convicted on seventeen of the remaining charges. In December of 2011, he was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. He reported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado, on March 15, 2012.

Blagojevich filed several appeals while incarcerated, and successfully had five of the counts upon which he had been convicted vacated by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in July of 2015. However, during a resentencing hearing in 2016 following that appeal, the District Court judge confirmed the original fourteen-year sentence. Blagojevich served almost eight full years of the fourteen-year sentence when his sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump. He was released from prison on February 18, 2020.


205 Boxes

Language of Materials



Rod Blagojevich was an attorney, a member of the 33rd district of the Illinois House of Representatives, a member of the United States House of Representatives for Illinois' 5th congressional district, and governor of the state of Illinois until he was arrested on corruption charges. He was released from prison in 2020. This collection consists of papers, photographs, audio, video, and artifactual materials documenting his professional and personal life.


The Rod Blagojevich Papers arrived at Northwestern University Archives in no original or specific order. After reviewing the collection the processor categorized 15 series, predominantly by topic and in some cases by format. Series and sub-series are organized chronologically whenever possible, and alphabetically within year. The 15 series are: biographical and personal; political career, general; Illinois House of Representatives, 33rd Legislative District: Campaign, Election, and Incumbency; United States House of Representatives, Illinois’ 5th Congressional District: Campaign, Election and Re-election, and Incumbency; governorship of Illinois: Campaign, Election and Re-election, and Incumbency; impeachment and imprisonment; correspondence; Judy Baar Topinka, opposition research; Mila "Millie" Blagojevich; photographic prints, negatives, and slides; books; audiovisual materials; digital materials; artifacts; and oversized materials.

Separated Materials

Approximately 4 linear feet of duplicates and unrelated materials were separated from this collection.

Guide to the Rod Blagojevich Papers
Yvonne Spura, Andrea Martinez, Zoe Lively, Evelyn Freilich, and Kevin Leonard
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US