FOX 32 Sunday: Reporter’s Notebooks: Harold Washington - KMSP-TV

FOX 32 Sunday: Reporter’s Notebooks: Remembering Harold Washington

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It was 30 years ago this month that Harold Washington was elected and sworn in as mayor of Chicago. He was, of course, the city's first African-American chief executive, but his legacy extends far beyond that.

He died just 4-1/2 years later, shortly after winning a second term and consolidating control of a racially divided City Council that reflected racial divisions in the city at large. He made changes that brought a degree of transparency to city services, hiring and contracting. He made mistakes -- not least relying on a patronage chief who went to federal prison for taking bribes from an FBI undercover mole. But Washington became an international symbol of how Chicago was changing and was the epicenter of urban politics. Big, important issues were being fought over here.

In his book, "Dreams from My Father," Barack Obama wrote that what first made him think about moving to Chicago was the Council Wars battle between Mayor Washington and the aldermanic opposition. Every time the president or the first lady comes back to town is a vibrant reminder of what today's Chicagoans owe to the city's first African-American mayor.

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