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Steven Knapp was born on April 1, 1951 in East St Louis, Illinois. He grew up in nearby Belleville, Illinois with his two brothers and one sister. Belleville is located about ten miles east of St. Louis, Missouri. In 1963 Steve’s father decided to become a Methodist Minister. Over the next several years Steve and his family would live in Evanston, Illinois, a small town near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in Quincy, Illinois where he graduated from high school in 1969.
Steve attended college at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. Although he graduated in the spring of 1973, Steve remained in Bloomington where he spent the next year working as a community organizer. In early 1974 he moved to his family’s farm. The farm was located in Southern Illinois about one hundred miles east of St. Louis. Over the next few years he would purchase some of his own farm land. On one of those parcels of land there was an old two story farmhouse that Steve and one of his brothers would spend the next two years renovating.
Steve first met Colleen Bentley on a blind date in January of 1976. Colleen had recently graduated from MacMurry College in Jacksonville, Illinois with a degree in Special Education. Although Colleen was from California, she would get her first teaching job at a small rural school near Steve’s farm. About ten months after their first date, Steve and Colleen would be married in November of 1976. They are the parents of two children, a son named Mark and a daughter named Beth.
Although Steve loved being a farmer, he loved politics even more. In the spring of 1978, at the tender age of only 26, he ran in a primary for an open seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. Although he lost the primary by less than 130 votes, he would run again for the same seat two years later in 1980. This time he would win the primary by a little more than 10,000 votes. He would later lose the general election in the fall of 1980 by less than 1% of the vote. During his three attempts to be elected to public office, Steve not only learned how to run a political campaign, but at an early age he was able to observe from the perspective of an insider just how our political process really works.
In 1981, as a consequence of a prolong drought, a national recession, and high interest rates, Steve and Colleen decided to sell their farm and move to Carbondale, Illinois where Steve planned to enroll in law school. About a year later, in 1982, he would instead be hired as an agent for a major insurance company. Although his first job as an insurance agent would be in DuQuoin, Illinois, in 1985 he was offered an opportunity by the same company to move back to his native Belleville.
Although he spent most of his time managing his insurance agency and raising his family, Steve continued to be a strong advocate for a variety of social causes and often also served as a volunteer organizer for many local political campaigns. During much of this time his wife Colleen would work as a Special Education teacher.
Over his lifetime Steve has been exposed to a variety of religious beliefs. Although he was raised a Methodist, his grandfather had once been a Mormon. Although his own father would become a Methodist minister when Steve was about twelve old, about fifteen years later his father would become a Unitarian minister. His wife Colleen, was raised a Catholic.
Steve has always loved science. While in college his studies included classes in biology, genetics and astronomy. He has been a lifelong star-gazer and amateur astronomer. In addition to being a news junkie, he has maintained an interest in cosmology, genetics, anthropology, sociology, political science, history, and religion.