By CARL GREEN
William “Bill” R. Haine, a longtime friend of Labor who served as Madison County state’s attorney before winning election to the Illinois Senate, died Aug. 16 at the age of 77 following a battle with cancer.
Haine was remembered fondly for his dedication to serving the county, the 56th Senate district and his family – his wife Anna, their seven children, and 38 grandchildren – while keeping close ties to the Democratic Party and the Labor Movement.
Haine attended St. Patrick’s Grade School and Marquette High School in Alton, then earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University. He served in Vietnam in the First Cavalry Division (Air Mobile), earning the Bronze Star. Returning home, he earned his Juris Doctorate from St. Louis University.
He worked as a clerk for George Moran on the 5th District Appellate Court, then became a public defender and was in private practice with Randy Bono in Wood River. He joined St. Mary’s Catholic Church and was active with the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion and the VFW. After an unsuccessful run for alderman, he was elected in 1978 to the Madison County Board and served as chair of the Madison County Transit District board.
By 1992, he was well-known throughout the region and was elected state’s attorney, upgrading the office and serving until 2002, when he won a special election to replace state Sen. Evelyn Bowles.
Haine became one of the state’s more senior and influential senators, pushing through legislation to create the Southwestern Illinois Flood Protection District to modernize the Metro-East levee system, supporting additions to the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus, leading the drive for a constitutional amendment to protect the state’s road fund, and fighting for union jobs at Granite City Steel by opposing the dumping of low quality, cheap steel from China. He later helped to write the state’s medical marijuana law.
Haine supported numerous pieces of Labor legislation and made frequent visits to Labor events of all kinds, particularly with the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor and the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, always bringing some good humor, useful information and often pleas for support of legislation.
In 2009, the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association presented Haine with the Outstanding Legislator award for advocacy of public safety. Haine served until choosing not to run for re-election in 2018. Gov. J.B. Pritzker then nominated Haine to the State Board of Elections, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously in 2019.
FOCUSED ON SERVING THE PEOPLE
“There was no more a gentleman in the Senate than Bill Haine,” said Senate President Don Harmon. “Bill dedicated his life to public service, beginning by serving his country in Vietnam, holding several local elected offices and ultimately having a storied career in the Senate.
“His focus was always on serving the people of the Metro-East, and he frequently worked across party lines to do so,” Harmon said. “He was a man of faith and family. Every time his family came to visit him on the Senate floor, it was easy to see he had a lot of which to be proud.”
Madison County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Harris, a Laborers organizer, said Haine was a “tireless advocate for working families and the entire Metro-East.
“Bill had a passion for helping and making a difference in people’s everyday lives. His dedication to both his faith and family was to be admired and celebrated. Bill was a true warrior and champion for our region, and we will all sorely miss him.”
A ‘TRUE GIANT’
Haine was replaced in the Senate by Rachelle Crowe (D-Glen Carbon), who won election to Haine’s Senate seat with his endorsement following his retirement. She said Haine was a “true giant” and noted his strong impact on the education of Illinois children.
“I had the good fortune to replace Bill in the state Senate in 2019 when he retired, but I have known him for many years, as our professional relationship and friendship began in the state’s attorney’s office,” she said. “Bill was a dedicated and committed public servant and an even better person. As a U.S. Army veteran and elected official, Bill was a true leader for our region and worked to ensure quality educational opportunities for students across the state. His legacy and accomplishments, as well as people’s fond memories of his unwavering strength and courage, will last for many years to come.”
In a 2017 interview with the Belleville News-Democrat, after announcing his retirement, Haine said the cancer was not the main reason he wasn’t running for re-election.
“The good Lord gives us a finite amount of time on this Earth,” he said. “I believe the time has come for me to find a new adventure and for someone else to take up the challenge and honor of serving the people in the Illinois Senate.”
In one of Haine’s last interviews, just a few weeks ago, with the Alton-area news website Riverbender.com, he cited the development of the flood protection district and Interstate 255 as two of his proudest accomplishments in the Senate, as well as his support of pro-Labor legislation and how he was able to work with both Democrats and Republicans.
He also praised his wife Anna, noting how she frequently visited the Senate floor and shared her opinions with him.
“Anna is beyond what words can describe,” he said. “I would do anything for her.”
The Haines celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Aug. 7 with a public mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Alton.
A FAMILY LEGACY
Haine’s son, Thomas, followed in his father’s footsteps to become the Madison County state’s attorney, as a Republican, winning election last year.
“In this time of great sorrow, we feel great joy in knowing that Bill, our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, died peacefully,” Tom Haine said in a statement for the family. “He was to the end a man of deep and committed faith in Jesus Christ, surrounded by the songs and prayers of his family, to whom he had offered every ounce of his care and devotion.”
Haine is survived by his wife, Anna; their children: Cecila Philippine Haine, Elizabeth (Nathan) Schlueter, Mary (Peter) Burkett, Margaret (Zeke) Balan, Alice (John) Stirton, Thomas (Eva Marie) Haine, and son Bill; three brothers: Jim (Madeleine) Haine, John (Sue) Haine and Tom (Pat) Haine; 38 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Alton on Aug. 21, with interment at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Alton.
Memorials may be made to St. Mary’s, Thrive Metro-East Women’s Healthcare, or the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. For more information, go online to eliaskallalandschaaf.com.