Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Taylor Pensoneau  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Creative Nonfiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1940 in Belleville, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Taylor was born in Belleville. He graduated from Belleville Township High School and Belleville Junior College. Currently, Taylor resides in Central Illinois.

Biographical and Professional Information

Taylor is one of the state's leading biographers of Illinois historical figures. He graduated from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and worked 16 years for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as the Springfield-based Illinois political correspondent. Pensoneau was also a political analyst at the Illinois statehouse. In early 1978, he joined the Springfield-based Illinois Coal Association as an executive and served as the Association's president from 1998 until his retirement in 2003. In 1991, former Illinois governor Daniel Walker asked Pensoneau to write his biography. Taylor's book ''Dan Walker: The Glory and the Tragedy'' was the start of his writing career. He has since written ''Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons'', an account of the rise and fall of the best-known gangster brothers to come out of southern Illinois, the critically acclaimed biography of former Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie -''Governor Richard Ogilvie: In the Interest of the State'', ''Power House: Arrington from Illinois'' about Senate Republican leader W. Russell Arrington and a mystery novel titled ''Summer of '50''. Pensoneau's latest book is ''Dapper & Deadly: The True Story of Black Charlie Harris''. His books on former Governors Richard Ogilvie and Dan Walker received the Illinois State Historical Society's Certificate of Excellence.Pensoneau is the former president of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Center for the Book, an affiilate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. He is a member of the Advisory Board for ''Illinois Issues'' magazine, former president of the Sangamon County Historical Society and president of the Board of Trustees of the West Sangamon Public Library District. He and his wife also own and operate ''Downstate Publications'' in New Berlin.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Dan Walker: The Glory and the Tragedy
ISBN: 0962341460

Smith Collins Co. 1993

The title of former Governor Dan Walker's biography is "Dan Walker, the Glory and the Tragedy." Written by Taylor Pensoneau and Bob Ellis, it reports on page 355 what Pat Quinn thought of Walker's term as governor. Playing off Blackburn College political science professor John Forbes' opinion that Walker had fallen "from a very promising guiding light in the Stevenson tradition to a largely confusing mishmash," the book says.

Governor Richard Ogilvie: In the Interest of the State
ISBN: 0809321483

Southern Illinois University Press. 1997

Although serious scandal erupted in Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie’ s administration— eight hundred thousand dollars mysteriously appearing in Secretary of State Paul Powell’ s shoe boxes and other hiding places, the downfall of two Supreme Court justices for questionable stock dealings, corruption surrounding the Illinois State Fair— Ogilvie’ s accomplishments, as Taylor Pensoneau demonstrates, rank him among the best governors in Illinois history.

Perhaps the most important of Ogilvie’ s accomplishments during his single term in office (1969– 1973) was the passage of the state’ s first income tax in 1969. Supporting the income tax took political courage on the part of the new governor, but in doing so he saved the financially crippled state from economic disaster. He also looked far into the future at a time when few people expressed concern with the environment, Ogilvie created an exemplary and hard-hitting antipollution program. He was in office during the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970 and was instrumental in the widespread restructuring of Illinois government.

Viewing Ogilvie as a pivotal figure in Illinois politics during a time of great social and political turmoil, Pensoneau provides a complete political biography. He sheds light on Ogilvie’ s military heroics, his political career, and the Illinois elections of 1968, 1970, and 1972.

Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons - Southern Illinois' Legendary Gangsters
ISBN: 0971071802

Downstate Publications. 2002

In Brothers Notorious, Pensoneau gives readers a long overdue book that traces the Shelton story from its unpretentious beginning in rural Wayne County to the headline-capturing violence at the tale's conclusion. Readers will find the book informative and entertaining, a resurrection of a dramatic era in Illinois history.

The summer of '50
ISBN: 0971071810

Downstate Publications. 2004

In The Summer of '50, Pensoneau combines his creative talent with his in-depth knowledge of reporting and history to produce a book that will engage any reader who thirsts for a thrilling mystery.

Powerhouse: Arrington from Illinois
ISBN: 1561679550

American Literary Press. 2006

W. Russell Arrington's name may not have been a household word across the country, but everything about him was classic American - from his proud immigrant ancestry and auspicious birthdate (July 4th) - to his rise from poverty to wealth and consummate legal, business, and political careers. From his days as "citizen legislator" in the mid-1940s to "powerhouse" politician by the 1960s, the political career of Illinois State Senator W. Russell Arrington characterized the evolution of a quintessential legislator, perhaps as no other in the twentieth century. His considerable influence in reshaping the Illinois General Assembly had long-reaching ramifications and lasting effects within that state and beyond. Biographer Taylor Pensoneau draws from his substantial knowledge of Illinois political history to bring Arrington's story to life. Lovers of American political, social, and corporate history will be drawn to the bigger-than-life characters and revealing back-stories that Pensoneau carefully creates on every page of this engrossing biography.

Dapper & Deadly: The True Story of Black Charlie Harris
ISBN: 0971071829

Downstate Publications. 2010

A compelling biography of the last of the big-name desperadoes from Southern Illinois. By the author of Brothers Notorious: The Sheltons, Southern Illinois' Legendary Gangsters.

REPORTING ON LIFE - and people along the way
ISBN: 0971071837

. 2014

Taylor Pensoneau emerged from the Norman Rockwell town of his Illinois youth to become a highly respected newspaper reporter, coal industry executive and well-known author. He chronicles his journey in "Reporting on Life-and people along the way." It is a revealing portrait of an Illinois insider replete with poignancy, humor and heartbreak. Readers are taken behind the scenes in the Illinois Statehouse press room, the Watergate scandal and the writing of Pensoneau's books. His titles include two award-winning biographies of Illinois governors, best-selling sagas of downstate Illinois gangsters (including "Brothers Notorious-The Sheltons"), and one work of fiction, the suspenseful "Summer of '50." In "Reporting on Life, and People Along the Way," the author relates his encounters with the famous and not so famous, and provides a detailed look at those who have greatly impacted his life. The 355-page book contains more than 48 photographs.


  • Illinois State Historical Society's Certificate of Excellence 1998 and 1994 for ''Dan Walker

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