John Prine Named First Honorary Poet Laureate of Illinois

Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the posthumous honor on Tuesday

John Prine
John Prine hanging out at Georgia State College, before a live interview on WRAS-FM.
Tom Hill/WireImage via Getty Images

Nearly three months after he passed away due to complications from COVID-19, legendary singer-songwriter and Maywood, Illinois native John Prine has been named the first honorary poet laureate of Illinois.

“John Prine leaves behind an unparalleled musical legacy and was beloved by family and millions of fans who hope that in Heaven he finds Paradise waitin’ just as he longed for,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said, quoting Prine’s “Paradise” while making the announcement on Tuesday.

“I have no doubt that John would be proud and delighted to receive this recognition from his home state of Illinois,” Prine’s widow Fiona Whelan Prine said in a statement in response to the honor. “Although he had moved to Nashville in the early Eighties, he continued to visit Chicago, and Maywood in particular, to spend time with his family. John continued to follow Chicago sports teams and had never found a hot dog, pizza or Italian beef sandwich to rival the originals. Watching John, as I did many times, play to an Illinois audience was always thrilling. A home boy delighting in the love and approval of his loyal fans — some of them family, long-time friends, old school buddies and neighbors.”

“John had great respect for writers of all kinds,” she continued. “He regarded poets as being among those whose work carried weight, relevance and elevated craft. It is such an honor for me, our sons and the entire Prine family to acknowledge that our beloved John will be named an Honorary Poet Laureate of the State of Illinois. Thank you, Governor Pritzker, for this wonderful recognition.”

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