Eugene Sawyer

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For the newspaper editor and author, see Eugene T. Sawyer.
Eugene Sawyer
Eugene Sawyer.jpg
53rd Mayor of Chicago
In office
December 2, 1987 – April 24, 1989
Preceded by David Duvall Orr
Succeeded by Richard M. Daley
City of Chicago Alderman
In office
1971 – December 2, 1987
Constituency 6th Ward, Chicago
Personal details
Born (1934-09-03)September 3, 1934
Greensboro, Alabama, U.S.
Died January 19, 2008(2008-01-19) (aged 73)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting place Oak Woods Cemetery

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Veronica Sims (m. 1996–2008)
Children Roderick Sawyer
Shedrick Sawyer
Sheryl Sawyer-McGill
Alma mater Alabama State University
Religion Protestant[1]

Eugene Sawyer (September 3, 1934 – January 19, 2008) was an American businessman, educator and politician who served as the 53rd Mayor of Chicago from December 2, 1987 to April 24, 1989. He was the second African-American to serve as mayor of Chicago. Sawyer was a member of the Democratic Party.

Early life and early career[edit]

Sawyer was born in Greensboro, Alabama and studied at Alabama State University, where he became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. After graduating, he had a brief stint as a chemistry and mathematics teacher in Prentiss, Mississippi, before moving to Chicago to do laboratory work in 1957.[2] Sawyer became involved with the 6th Ward Regular Democratic Organization and the Young Democrats through family friends. In 1959, Sawyer took a job in Chicago’s Department of Water, where he worked until 1971.[3]

Political career[edit]

City Alderman (1971-1987)[edit]

In 1971, Sawyer was elected Alderman of Chicago's 6th Ward.[4] By 1987, he was the longest-serving black alderman on the Chicago City Council,[5] when the sudden death of Harold Washington created a vacancy in the position of mayor. During Washington's tenure, a coalition of Regular Democratic and independent Democratic aldermen enacted reforms. Washington's supporters in the city council divided, supporting Aldermen Sawyer and Timothy C. Evans for mayor.[6] The City Council elected Sawyer mayor in a tumultuous and lengthy meeting.

Mayor of Chicago (1987-1989)[edit]

Sawyer 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,[7] in an effort to avoid public demonstration. During his time as mayor, Sawyer worked to pass legislation supporting the installation of lights at Wrigley Field and the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance banning indoor smoking. Building on groundwork laid under Mayor Washington, Sawyer championed the Human Rights Ordinance, passed in 1988, to protect individuals against discrimination. This was the first Chicago city ordinance to assert the rights of gay and lesbian Chicagoans.[3] In the 1989 Democratic primary for Chicago’s mayor, Richard M. Daley defeated incumbent Eugene Sawyer as well as Alderman Lawrence Bloom, Sheila Jones and James C. Taylor.[8]

Retirement from politics and death[edit]

After losing the mayoral contest, Sawyer lost his reelection bid for Democratic committeeman of the 6th Ward and subsequently retired from politics. After retiring, he became involved in business again. Sawyer was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and an active member of the Vernon Park Church of God. Sawyer died on Saturday, January 19, 2008 at approximately 11 PM after a series of strokes and other health setbacks over the previous month.[9][10] 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.[3] Sawyer's mayoral papers are available as the Eugene Sawyer Collection at Special Collections department of the Chicago Public Library located in the Harold Washington Library.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NNDB: Eugene Sawyer
  2. ^ Crawford, Jan (December 7, 1987). "Sawyer Grew Up 757 Miles and a World Away From Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Courtney, Meghan; Fuqua, Dominique. "Biographical Note" (PDF). Eugene Sawyer Mayoral Records Finding Aid. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  4. ^ "Eugene Sawyer Biography". The Historymakers. January 29, 2003. Retrieved January 1, 2014. 
  5. ^ Wilkerson, Isabel (December 3, 1987). "MAN IN THE NEWS; A Calm Voice For Chicago: Eugene Sawyer Jr.". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  6. ^ Johnson, Dirk (December 2, 1987). "Feuding Delays Selection of Chicago Mayor". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  7. ^ “Chicago Gains Acting Mayor.” Eugene Register-Guard, December 3, 1987.
  8. ^ "Election Results for 1989 Primary Election, Mayor, Chicago, Illinois (Democratic Party)". Chicago Democracy Project. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  9. ^ "Former Mayor Eugene Sawyer Dies". Chicago Tribune. 2008-01-20. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  10. ^ Yates, Jon; Malone, Tara (January 21, 2008). "Eugene Sawyer: 1934-2008". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-01-01. 
  11. ^ "Archival Collections". Chicago Public Library. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
David Orr
Mayor of Chicago
December 2, 1987 – April 24, 1989
Succeeded by
Richard M. Daley