KANKAKEE, Ill. (AP) _ Samuel H. Shapiro, the immigrant son of a cobbler who served briefly as governor in 1968, died Monday at home. He was 79.

Kankakee County Coroner James Orrison said a preliminary report indicated he died of natural causes. Police were sent to his home after Shapiro, an attorney, did not appear Monday in court, Police Chief Timothy Nugent.

Shapiro, a Democrat, replaced Otto Kerner as the state's chief executive in May 1968, then was defeated in November by Republican Richard Ogilvie.

Shapiro was an infant when his family came to the United States in 1908 from Estonia, now part of the Soviet Union, and settled in Kankakee.

He received a law degree from the University of Illinois in 1929, became a Kankakee city attorney in 1933, then was elected Kankakee County state's attorney in 1936.

Shapiro served 14 years in the Illinois General Assembly, followed by seven years as lieutenant governor when Gov. Otto Kerner resigned to accept a federal judgeship.

Known as ''Governor Sam'' for his ''nice-guy approach,'' Shaprio devoted much of his energy to mental health programs and facilities. He sometimes was criticized for being too easygoing and lacking the leadership to run the state.

''I have no regrets,'' he said after he lost to Ogilvie. ''My philosophy is, today is the happiest day of my life; yesterday is gone; and tomorrow may never come. So I always look forward.''

His wife, Gertrude, died in 1983. The couple had no children.