To many Chicagoans who still to this very day love, respect, and admire the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black chief executive, it’s still hard to believe that he collapsed and died of a fatal heart attack the day before Thanksgiving, thirty-six (36) years ago this month on Nov. 25, 1987, in his City Hall office. But despite this tragic public service loss, Harold’s legacy remains strong 40 years after his historic Mayoral win in April 1983.
In his honor, the Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Committee (MHWLC) will host their Annual “WE REMEMBER HAROLD” Wreath Laying Ceremony in memory of the late Mayor Harold Washington at Oak Woods Cemetery, 1035 East 67th Street on Chicago’s South Side from 11 a.m. to Noon on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
Oak Woods is where such early Black 20th-century notables as Olympian Jesse Owens, prominent journalist, abolitionist and activist Ida B. Wells–Barnett, Ebony/Jet magazine publishing company founder John H. Johnson, the father of Black gospel music Thomas A. Dorsey and the late Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s 51st Mayor, among many prominent others, are buried. The ceremonial event is FREE and open to the public.
In recognition of the late Mayor Harold Washington, the Hon. Desmond Yancy, the freshman 5th Ward Alderman, who has long treasured the memory of the late Mayor Washington, expressed that he considers it a ‘distinct honor’ to deliver the Keynote Address on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
He will be joined by a diverse multi-ethnic coalition of current and former local officials and civic, community and religious leaders who will celebrate Mayor Washington’s profound civic and political heritage, along with the Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Committee (MHWLC) members.
The ceremony is organized as a way of “keeping Harold’s legacy alive,” said Loisteen Walker, President of the Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Committee (MHWLC). The mission of the Chicago-based 501(c )(3) nonprofit organization, which is comprised of original members who were part of Harold Washington’s personal and political inner circle, is to perpetuate his legacy. “Harold Washington forever deserves and will always have our deepest appreciation and respect from members of the Mayor Harold Washington Legacy Committee (MHWLC),” emphasized Walker.
He Was The RIGHT MAN At The RIGHT MOMENT: Harold Washington was a respected Lawyer – and, before his historic Mayoral run, served as an Illinois State Representative and state Senator. Washington was also the 1st District Chicago Congressman and an honored U.S. Veteran with over 20 years of elective office, campaign experience & public service at local, state, and federal levels.
A native Chicagoan raised in politics by his socially civic-advocate parents (attorney dad & precinct captain, mom singer and homemaker) and educated in the city’s South Side Bronzeville neighborhood. Harold Washington was a Roosevelt University and Northwestern Law School graduate, a highly intelligent, well-read, down-to-earth people person, excellent orator and shrewd former machine Democrat and progressive Black legislator who worked for the people.
He challenged the Black community with the rallying cry “We Shall See in ’83” to register 50,000 new voters and raise $1 million before he committed to run for Mayor. In response, the Black community registered over 100,000 new voters. Black business people quickly raised/donated more than $2.5 million – – – and the rest, as they say, was history as he became Chicago’s 1st Black Mayor after an epic battle, racially divisive and intensively brutal, hard-won successful campaign with 99% of the Black Vote and strong support by multi-ethnic coalitions, Latinos and Progressive White Voters.
It seems like yesterday. Even now, the pride in his achievements, as well as the painful memories surrounding the end of this historic ‘Mayoral Miracle,’ which began with his monumental election on the date of Apr. 12, 1983, today remains fresh in the minds of many inter-generational activists, political enthusiasts, and admirers.
This Nov. 22 ceremony will celebrate and explore the life and legacy of Mayor Washington, the city’s first African-American Mayor, featuring multi–generational speakers, a TAPS wreath ceremony, and a youth ROTC brigade.
“The legacy of Mayor Washington remains socially and politically relevant, alive and well for today and the future,” says Dr. Barbara Norman, a founding member of the Chicago-based nonprofit MHWLC organization. “Our mission is to reignite the progressive spirit of unity and keep alive the essential purposeful philosophies of equity, opportunity, inclusion and dedicated service embodied by Mayor Washington during his life.” For more information about MHWLC, Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mhwlc.com https://www.facebook.com/mayorharoldwashington/.