It's April, 1983. Harold Washington becomes Chicago's mayor, the
first African-American to achieve the fifth floor office in city hall.
He's eminently qualified, having been an Illinois legislator to
Springfield and Washington, DC. He's an attorney, son of an
attorney, a man with charm, exuding erudition and humor at
any time, except for extreme, rare, unforgivable times.
I worked on Washington's mayoral campaign in 1983, in
infamous Democratic Machine Ward 47. Even after Harold
had been in office for months, the obstinate stupidity of
prejudice held sway there (-and elsewhere). The essential,
provable fairness of Mayor Washington HAS NOT
been emphasized enough: usually, any encomiums focus
on his opening doors deservedly opened to minorities and
women; these reported reforms were good, overdue
But I personally witnessed his remarkable practical justice
to the white areas of Chicago as well, in street resurfacing
projects where I lived, Chicago's racist near NW Side,
Damen/Irving/Lincoln, the 47th Ward. At the same time,
literally THE SAME WEEK, street resurfacing/repair
by the city was carried out there and on the South Side.
Has anyone else in power in Chicago been as fair as
Harold? I doubt it.
But then, he was a kind and extremely well-read soul;
sadly, qualities in short supply today in 2013.