Happy HUMP day, Everyone! Today’s featured Democratic Mayor is the INCOMPARABLE Mayor Harold Washington.
Harold Lee Washington (April 15, 1922 – November 25, 1987) was an American lawyer and politician who became the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987.
Mayor of Chicago (1983–1987)
n the February 22, 1983, Democratic mayoral primary, community organizers registered more than 100,000 new African American, Latino and poor and independent white voters, while the white vote was split between the incumbent mayor Jane Byrne and future mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Washington won with 37% of the vote, versus 33% for Byrne and 30% for Daley.
Although winning the Democratic primary is normally tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Chicago, after his primary victory Washington found that his Republican opponent, former state legislator Bernard Epton (earlier considered a nominal stand-in), was supported by many white Democrats and ward organizations, including the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Alderman Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak. Epton’s campaign referred to, among other things, Washington’s conviction for failure to file income tax returns. (He had paid the taxes, but had not filed a return.) However, Washington appealed to his constituency in his mayoral political campaign, and stressed such things as reforming the Chicago patronage system and the need for a jobs program in a tight economy. In the April 12, 1983, mayoral general election, Washington defeated Epton by 3.7%, 51.7% to 48.0%, to become mayor of Chicago. Washington was sworn in as mayor on April 29, 1983, and resigned his Congressional seat the following day.
During his tenure as mayor, Washington lived at the Hampton House apartments in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Among the changes he made to the city’s government was creating its first environmental-affairs department under the management of longtime Great Lakes environmentalist Lee Botts. Washington’s victory marked the end of race lines, such as Western Avenue in Chicago Lawn, which had kept Black Americans from living in White neighborhoods.
Harold- This American Life
ORIGINALLY AIRED 11.21.1997- Audio & Transcript here.