Here is a look at the life of George Ryan, former Governor of Illinois.
Personal: Birth date: February 24, 1934
Birth place: Maquoketa, Iowa
Birth name: George Homer Ryan, Sr.
Father: Thomas Ryan, pharmacist
Mother: Jeannette Ryan
Marriage: Lura Lynn Lowe (1956-June 27, 2011, her death)
Children: Nancy, Lynda, triplets Julie, Joanne, Jeanette, and George Jr.
Education: Ferris State College, B.S., 1961
Military: Army, 1954-1956
Other Facts: Worked as a pharmacist in his family's business.
"Our capital punishment system is haunted by the demon of error -- error in determining guilt, error in determining who among the guilty deserves to die," Ryan said in a speech announcing the blanket commutations.
The 163 men and four women whose sentences Ryan commuted were convicted of killing more than 250 people.
Timeline: 1968 - Serves as chairman of the Kankakee County Board.
1972 - Is elected to the Illinois House of Representatives.
1981-1983 - Speaker of the House.
1983-1991 - Lieutenant Governor of Illinois.
1990 - Becomes secretary of state under Governor Jim Edgar.
November 3, 1998 - Is elected governor of Illinois.
January 11, 1999 - Takes office as governor.
January 31, 2000 - Calls for a moratorium on executions, "until I can be sure that everyone sentenced to death in Illinois is truly guilty."
August 8, 2001 - Rules out running for re-election because of a scandal over bribery.
October 2002 - Orders the Illinois Prisoner Review Board to hold two weeks of clemency hearings for almost all of the death row inmates. He does not attend the hearings.
January 11, 2003 - In one of his last acts as governor of Illinois, Ryan commutes the sentences of all 167 inmates on Illinois's death row.
December 17, 2003 - Is indicted on federal charges of taking payoffs, gifts, and vacations in return for government contracts and leases while he was secretary of state.