CHICAGO – It was a small neon sign and it read “Governor Blagojevich.”
And it was one of the first things to go Thursday as an Arlington Heights, Ill., storage facility auctioned off belongings of the former governor. Price? $375.
Later, a replica of the state seal went for $145. A box of plaques? $225 to Bidder 157.
J.R. Bramlett bought a container for about $1,000 because he said it housed Elvis memorabilia, including what he believes is an Elvis autograph.
Bramlett was among more than 100 people who crowded the parking lot of Boyer-Rosene Moving and Storage for the auction, which is being held because the company says it has not received a monthly payment in more than a year. The outstanding bill is more than $100,000, not including interest.
Bidding went slowly in unrelenting heat, with boxes going for $40 or $50.
Participants didn’t always know what they were bidding on. Some boxes include law files and videotapes. One had a plaque awarded to the governor for political leadership. Another contained the governor’s weekly planner, according to the auctioneer.
Some of the most personal items – including a diary, author unknown – were not sold because the owners did not want to violate the former governor’s privacy.
Jeffrey Garrett, associate librarian at Northwestern University, was there to buy the governor’s most important papers and worried they will scatter across the region as bidders take boxfuls home.
“The man was governor. There is no doubt people will be studying his political career,” Garrett said. “He is a Northwestern alum. Historians will probably contact us and ask us what we have.”
Garrett ended up buying more than a dozen boxes. “I’m a happy man. I think we’ve done a good job. We pulled out letters from his mother and father. We will return those to him. What we want is to document his career with original material. We will preserve it or, if it is personal, return it to the family.”
Ray Hornkohl, 55 of Buffalo Grove, Ill., said he came to the auction looking for Elvis memorabilia and maybe a piece of history.
“I am looking for pictures of him with famous people,” he said. “Now that he is a convicted felon, it would probably be worth more.”
The crates have been in storage at the warehouse since 2002, when Blagojevich was a congressman.
All of the money raised Thursday will be donated to Children’s Memorial Hospital, which the government had said was the subject of a shakedown for campaign money by Blagojevich. But that extortion charge was one of 23 counts federal jurors couldn’t agree on.
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