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All the King's Men
by Robert Penn Warren
Willie Stark Timeline and Summary
We first meet Willie in 1936, when he is already Governor. Jack remembers driving with him to Mason City, Willie's hometown. After a photo shoot and dinner with the family, Willie and Jack drive to Judge Irwin's, and Willie tries to get Irwin to revoke his endorsement of a rival political figure. After the visit, he tells Jack to investigate Irwin's past to see if he can find something dirty on the Judge. Jack backtracks in his memories and we learn some of Willie's history. In 1922, Willie was Mason County Treasurer and was pushing a bond issue that would allow a new school to be built. The bond passed, but the contract to build the school is going to a crooked contractor with a bad safety record, in spite of Willie's vocal opposition. When there is a tragic accident involving the school fire escape as a direct result of the contractor's shoddy work, Willie becomes a local hero. He studies law on his own, passes the bar, and practices law. Soon, Tiny Duffy approaches him to run for Governor. Unbeknownst to Willie, Tiny and his boss are just using him to make sure another guy doesn't win the race, and are not genuinely trying to get Willie elected. When Willie learns the truth, he begins drinking, and begins to make speeches that reach the people. He drops out of the race, but later runs on his own and wins. As Governor, he does many good deeds, but blackmails many people in order to accomplish his ambitious goals. Willie is far from faithful to his wife, Lucy. He has had affairs with Sadie Burke, Anne Stanton, an exotic skater, an another unnamed women. He plans to build a free hospital for the people in his state. Blackmailers, who want the contract to build the hospital, approach him with the news that Tom Stark might have gotten a girl pregnant. When all his attempts at reverse blackmail fail, he gives the blackmailers the contract to save Tom from the scandal. When Tom is permanently paralyzed in a football accident, Willie takes back the contract. As a result, Tiny Duffy makes a phone call Adam Stanton, brilliant surgeon, and Willie's pick for hospital director. (We learn later that Tiny had his own ulterior motives.) During the call Tiny informs Adam that Willie and Adam's sister Anne have been having an affair, and that this is the only reason Adam got the directorship. He also tells Adam that Willie is done with Anne now, and that he will take away Adam's position. This causes Adam to shoot Willie, who dies soon after when his wounds become infected.