Monday, April 15, 2013

Mayor Harold Washington, 30 Years on, Alive in My Mind

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
and true.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I miss Harold Washington too, Amber. He was the only Chicago mayor in our recent history who was a true advocate of openness in government. Owing to his persuasiveness, affability, and genuine regard for all Chicagoans, he was well on his way to gaining the regard and the confidence of even some of the most reflexively racist folks in this city.

    Since then, it's been a long drought, just as it was prior to Mayor Washington's election. (Carter Harrison Jr. was a decent guy who did his best; Martin Kennelly may have had the best of intentions, but no backbone).

    Washington's only real disservice to the City of Chicago, was his lack of concern about his own health. He sure loved those cheeseburgers! He had a great heart --- metaphorically AND literally! That's what did him in at age 65. Much too young!