On April 12th, 1983 Harold Washington became Chicago’s first African American mayor. He was the 51st mayor for the city of Chicago.
Mr. Washington was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 15th, 1922. He was the son of Roy and Bertha Washington. His father, Roy Washington was no stranger to politics as he had a career as both a lawyer and a police officer. His mother, Bertha Washington was a singer.
Harold Washington, even though he became an esteemed member of government at both the state and local levels had endured a long road to victory. When he was in high school, he had to drop out so that he could serve in World War II. He was blessed to come back home from the war. Once he did, he went on to get his G.E.D. In 1949 Mr. Washington went on to receive his bachelor’s degree from Roosevelt University. From there he went on to attend law school at Northwestern University. At Northwestern University, he was the only black man in his classes. Harold graduated from Northwestern in 1952.
Thirteen years after he received his law degree, in the year 1965, Harold Washington was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. He served this position for nearly a decade. While in office he fought for equality as well as tried to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. In 1977, he became state senator for Illinois. In 1980, he went on to the national level of politics by winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1983, he began his bid for mayor of Chicago. Even though he was not new to politics, his journey to mayor was not an easy one. He faced many racial threats and undercuts by his opponent. There were messages to the community, that they should not allow a black man to get into top government offices. Despite all the methods employed by his opposition, he won and became the city’s first African American mayor. While in office, he once again faced opposition. There were many tries to undermine any decision he made. Once again, he overcame these and was elected for a second term in 1987.
Sadly Mr. Washington died while in office in 1987. He collapsed at his desk in November of 1987, and was pronounced dead a few hours later in a local hospital.