Adlai Stevenson III, Former Illinois Senator and Grandson of Ex-Vice President, Dies at 90

Former Illinois Senator and son of prominent political family Adlai Stevenson III died Monday at the age of 90.

Representing the state from 1970 through 1981, Stevenson followed in the footsteps of his great-grandfather who served as vice president of the United States during Grover Cleveland's second term and his father who was elected as Illinois' 31st governor and ran as the Democratic nominee for president twice.

Nancy Stevenson, the former senator's wife of 67 years, confirmed his death at their Chicago home was due to complications associated with Lewy body disease—a common type of dementia. His son, Adlai Stevenson IV, also confirmed the news.

"He just faded away," he said.

After the death of U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen, Stevenson defeated Ralph Tyler Smith in a special election to fill the unexpired term and began his career in the Senate. In 1974, Stevenson was re-elected. Two years later, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley encouraged the senator to run for president though he declined to campaign. After his six-year term expired, Stevenson didn't seek re-election.

Instead, Stevenson opted to run for governor of Illinois against Republican James R. Thompson. Having served four consecutive terms, Thompson was the state's longest-serving governor and Stevenson hoped to defeat him.

Adlai Stevenson III speaking to the press
Adlai Stevenson, III, announced during a press conference that he will ask for a recount in the Illinois gubernatorial election during a press conference in Chicago in 1982. On September 6, 2021, Stevenson died at the age of 90 from complications associated with Lewy body dementia. Bettmann/Getty

The 1982 vote was the closest gubernatorial election in the state's history but Thompson defeated Stevenson by 5,074 votes out of the 3.6 million cast. The results were challenged in court.

Stevenson ran again in 1986 but refused to appear on the same ticket as the gentlemen who won the party's nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state because of differences in ideology. Instead, he organized the Illinois Solidarity Party as an alternative choice and lost the election.

After leaving public office, Stevenson resumed his law practice and began focusing on business and cultural relations with East Asia. He had previously graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School plus served with the Marine Corps in Korea during the early 1950s.

Prior to the decline in his health, Stevenson was active in speaking and presenting for the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy in Libertyville, Illinois and worked on the family farm raising cattle and growing corn.

In 2017, he told The New York Times that his family's political dynasty was likely over as his son Adlai IV, is a businessman and former reporter. Stevenson's grandson, born in 1994, was described as a "computer whiz" and neither had shown much interest in politics.

Stevenson is survived by his wife and children, brothers John and Borden, and nine grandchildren.