Sunday, December 3, 2017

30 years ago, we lost Harold Washington...

[VIDEO] I intended to mark this event in Chicago's history late last month and unfortunately never got around to it. On November 25, 1987 - 30 years ago - Mayor Harold Washington died of a heart attack. Washington was Chicago's first Black mayor.

As you see in the video above CBS Chicago marks the legacy of Harold Washington as mayor roughly around the anniversary of his untimely demise.

Tonight I would like to share with you something you might see in this month's edition of Chicago magazine discussing his death.
The Chicago Tribune’s coverage of that day depicted a city convulsed in grief: “Women sank, sobbing, onto plaza benches. A man sat and buried his head in his hands.” A memorable photo showed a police officer standing guard outside the mayor’s City Hall office—where Washington had collapsed just hours earlier—wiping tears from his face.

Washington, a former U.S. congressman, was 65 years old, overweight, an ex-smoker, and a notorious workaholic in a stressful job, yet his death hit Chicagoans—especially African Americans, 98 percent of whom had voted for Washington in the first election—like a gut punch. To many black residents, the loss of their charismatic, Bronzeville-born mayor threatened to extinguish four and a half years’ worth of progress in a city that had long been ruled by machine politics and marred by racial injustice.

During that period, having overcome fierce opposition from an obstructionist group of mostly white aldermen known as the Vrdolyak 29, Washington increased the number of minorities in local government, awarded a record number of contracts to minority-owned businesses, improved governmental transparency by granting the public access to official records, and formed an ethics commission to root out corruption. The mayor envisioned those and other moves as merely a start, quipping after his April reelection that he was going to be “mayor for life” and die at his desk. His prediction proved uncannily true, and all too soon.

Two days after Washington’s death, his body lay in state in the City Hall rotunda, drawing thousands of mourners. He was buried four days later at Oak Woods Cemetery, not far from his Hyde Park apartment. Early on December 2, over the vociferous objections of protesters who supported Washington’s widely acknowledged heir apparent, Timothy Evans, a majority of the City Council selected Eugene Sawyer, an African American alderman favored by the late mayor’s foes, to succeed Washington. In the eyes of many Chicagoans, the machine had regained power, and a momentous era was over.

But for a great number of those who knew and worked with the man, their impressions of Washington have faded little in three decades, and the things he fought for feel more urgent than ever. For a handful of people who lived through that November day in 1987, the memories are indelible.
Another perspective is from the Chicago Reader just click the tweet below

Ten years ago, I had shared a link to an NPR program called This American Life which had an episode discussing the time of Harold Washington as Mayor of Chicago. And apparently it re-aired last month also. Give it a quick listen.

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Joe Zekas R.I.P.

 Joe Zekas ran the real estate news website YoChicago . If you have been following that site and their social media channels i.e. YouTube o...