Remembering Mary Frances Fagan

Feb 6, 2018

For 8 years, Mary Frances Fagan was the voice of state government coverage on public radio throughout Illinois.  Fagan died this week after battling cancer.  She was 63.

From 1981-1989, she served as the statehouse bureau chief for this station.  Her reports were aired daily and fed to other public radio outlets.  Mary Frances became known for her expertise, her dogged determination to get the story and her ability to break down complex topics so listeners could better understand what their government was doing. 


As a woman covering the old boys club, she had to be better than good.  And she was. We've added a couple of audio recordings from our archives so you can hear her in action.  

Credit Photo provided

Along with daily reporting, she covered elections and other special events.  She was also a regular panelist on State Week in Review, the weekly political roundtable show featuring journalists and other statehouse watchers.

I never had the chance to work with Mary Frances.  But I, and many others,  listened and relied on her reporting.  

I came to our statehouse bureau a few years after she left. But it was clear she set the standard for coverage and I was proud to follow in her footsteps.

She was always complimentary of the work we were doing.  And that meant a lot to all of us here at NPR Illinois.

After her radio career ended, Mary Frances worked in state government. Later, she served as a spokesperson for American Airlines and then her own consulting firm.

Her final days were difficult.  Good friends rallied to her aid and helped ease her pain.  And then, on Sunday, we learned she was gone. 

Her legacy of helping build public radio in Illinois into the respected news source it is today won’t be forgotten.  And we won’t forget Mary Frances.  

Mary Frances Fagan, in her trademark sneakers, interviews Sen. Joyce Holmberg at the statehouse in the summer of 1987,