First Black Illinois GOP Representative in Three Decades Is Appointed

Sheriff’s deputy John Anthony was sworn into the state legislature.

Posted: 08/22/2013 06:15 PM EDT

John Anthony, 37, will become the first African-American GOP member of the state legislature in Illinois since the 1980s. 

Anthony, the Kendall County sheriff’s deputy, was appointed by Republican officials in the 75th district and he will replace the resigning state Rep. Pam Roth of Morris.

"He's so energized. He believes in teamwork, and I love that about him," Susan Thornton, chairwoman of the LaSalle County Republican Central Committee, told the Associated Press. "He has got such a magnetic personality."

Anthony has worked in law enforcement since 2008. In addition to serving as sheriff's deputy, he worked as a police officer in Champaign, Illinois. Along with his wife, Anthony founded a nonprofit organization for children called the YARN Foundation. The YARN Foundation offers a GED readiness program, mentoring services and housing for homeless youths.

"I really want to be judged on the merits and not the skin color," Anthony said. "I've always felt welcomed into the Republican Party."

The last African-American Republican state lawmaker was Jesse Jackson of Chicago, whose term in the Illinois House ended in 1983. Jackson has no relation to the more well-known Democrats by the same name.

Since the Republican Party’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the GOP has been trying to increase the number of Blacks and Latinos in the party. Anthony’s appointment comes as Republicans have vowed to increase its outreach efforts to minorities.

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(Photo: Courtesy of The State of Illinois)

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