Eugene Sawyer, Mayor of Chicago   Leave a comment


Eugene Sawyer (September 3, 1934 – January 19, 2008[1]) was an American businessman and politician who served as Mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1987–1989) as a member of the Democratic Party. He was the second African American to serve as mayor of Chicago.

  Early life

Sawyer was born in Greensboro, Alabama and studied at Alabama State University. After graduating, he had a brief stint as a chemistry and math teacher in Prentiss, Mississippi, before moving to Chicago to do laboratory work in 1957. Soon after, he began to get involved in politics, becoming the president and financial secretary of the 6th Ward Young Democrats.

 Alderman and Mayor

In 1971, Sawyer was elected as an alderman of the 6th ward. He continued in the position until 1987, when the sudden death of Harold Washington created a vacancy in the position of mayor. Sawyer was elected mayor by the other members of the city council in a tumultuous and bitter meeting protested by thousands of angry minority and progressive citizens, and took over from interim mayor David Duvall Orr.

Sawyer’s inauguration for mayor occurred in the parking lot of a closed restaurant at North and Bosworth Avenues at 4:01 am on December 2, 1987. The reason for this was to avoid the type of angry demonstration that accompanied his election. Washington’s tenure had culminated in the creation of a coalition of minority and progressive council members who were poised to enact a program of reforms when he died unexpectedly. That coalition had chosen another Washington lieutenant, Timothy Evans, to replace him. The opposition, mostly white old-guard conservative machine politicos, convinced Sawyer to oppose Evans, with their backing, and the progressive coalition was broken.

Washington’s time as mayor was filled with controversy and racial hostility from white conservative and white ethnic voters, and while Sawyer’s tenure went much more smoothly, the cost was significant.[citation needed] Sawyer managed to pass several major initiatives begun by Washington, including placing lights in Wrigley Field, an Ethics Ordinance to prevent corruption, and one of the first human rights ordinances that protected gays and lesbians from discrimination. However, the progressive coalition that had finally ousted the political machine of former mayor Richard J. Daley was destroyed. Within two years Daley’s son, Richard M. Daley, would be elected to succeed Sawyer, going on to reconstitute his father’s organization and dominate Chicago politics for the next twenty-two years.

  Retirement from politics and death

Sawyer was defeated by Richard M. Daley at the 1989 election, and subsequently retired from politics. After retiring, he became involved in the business community once again. Sawyer was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Sawyer died on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at approximately 11 PM after a series of strokes and other health setbacks over the previous month. Sawyer died just one day after former Cook County Board President John Stroger, creating a lot of Chicago local news coverage on the passing of both men. Public viewing for Sawyer took place on January 25 and his funeral took place on January 26 followed by burial at Oak Woods Cemetery, the same cemetery where Harold Washington is buried.

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Posted February 29, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Uncategorized

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