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Thanks to Ken Gray for long-lasting impact on his region

Published: Saturday, July 26, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Ken Gray wanted to stand out. Mission accomplished.

The longtime congressman, who died July 12 at 89, was known for his colorful personality and bold wardrobe.

His unique look wasn’t the only way Gray managed to break apart from the pack. He got things done.

Known as the “Prince of Pork,” Gray brought $7 billion for regional projects to Southern Illinois.

In politics, “pork” has a negative connotation. Short for pork-barrel spending, it’s sometimes thought of as wasteful.

In Gray’s case, it was quite the opposite. The bacon he brought home has had long-lasting effects on the region.

During his 24 years in Congress, Gray delivered projects such as Interstates 57, 24 and 64, which prompted millions of dollars of development in the region; a canalization project for the Kaskaskia River that opened up the region for barge traffic; and the creation of the man-made Rend Lake, which provides drinking water for dozens of communities and is one of the region’s top tourist destinations.

He is also responsible for bringing the federal prison to Marion, and he sponsored legislation that brought 120 post offices, nursing homes, hospitals and a multitude of other major infrastructure improvements.

Gray was always looking out for Southern Illinois, and that’s precisely what a U.S. representative is supposed to do.

In today’s political world, people like Ken Gray seem fewer and fewer. The bickering and politicking leads to massive gridlock. We don’t elect people to win arguments; we elect them to work for the greater good of their region and the country as a whole.

That’s what Gray did, and that’s why all Southern Illinoisans should be thankful for his service.

If you’re driving on an interstate that cuts your travel time in half or helps your business move goods faster, thank Ken Gray.

If you’re drinking water from Rend Lake or just enjoying a day at its beach, thank Ken Gray.

If you work at the Marion prison or one of the numerous other offices he brought to the region, thank Ken Gray.

Considered by many to be one of the region’s most impactful politicians, he left an indelible mark on Southern Illinois.

Today, we salute Ken Gray and thank him for all he did for us.

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