|Washington in 1982.|
|51st Mayor of Chicago|
April 29, 1983 – November 25, 1987
|Preceded by||Jane Byrne|
|Succeeded by||David Duvall Orr|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st district
January 5, 1981 – April 30, 1983
|Preceded by||Bennett M. Stewart|
|Succeeded by||Charles A. Hayes|
|Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 26th district
|Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
from the 26th district
April 15, 1922|
|Died||November 25, 1987
|Resting place||Oak Woods Cemetery|
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Dorothy Finch
(July 22, 1942–February 25, 1950)
Mary Ella Smith (engaged)
|Alma mater||DuSable High School
Northwestern University School of Law
|Service/branch||United States Army Air Corps, later United States Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1942-1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Harold Washington (born Harold Lee Washington); April 15, 1922 – November 25, 1987) was an American lawyer, politician and elected in 1983 as the 51st Mayor of Chicago. He was the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987. He was also a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 to 1983 representing the Illinois first district, and also previously served in the Illinois State Senate and the Illinois House of Representatives.
- 1 Early years
- 2 Military service
- 3 Roosevelt College
- 4 Northwestern University School of Law
- 5 Legislative political career
- 6 Mayor of Chicago (1983–1987)
- 7 Harold Washington's Political Education Project
- 8 Death
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Harold Washington was born on April 15, 1922, to Roy and Bertha Washington. His father had been one of the first precinct captains in the City, a lawyer and a Methodist minister. His mother, Bertha, left a small farm near Centralia, Illinois, to seek her fortune in Chicago as a singer. She married Roy Washington soon after arriving in Chicago and the couple had three children, one named Kevin and the other named Ramon Price (from a later marriage), who was a former artist and became chief curator of The DuSable Museum of African American History.
Washington grew up in the "Bronzeville" the historically (formerly "Colored" or "Negro") "Black" or "African American" neighborhood of Chicago. At the time it was the center of Black culture for the entire Midwest in the early and middle 20th Century (similar to the large "Harlem" neighborhood to the East in New York City on northern Manhattan Island, and the influence that the "Harlem Renaissance" had on the history of African Americans in the United States (black culture and the growing Black population has since spread since World War I throughout the entire "South Side" of Chicago and the southern suburbs). Washington attended DuSable High School, then a newly established public high school which was racially segregated, and was a member of the first graduating class. In a 1939 citywide track athletic meet, Washington placed first in the 110 meter high hurdles event, and second in the 220 meter low hurdles event. Between his "junior" and "senior" year of high school, Washington dropped out, claiming that he no longer felt challenged by the classwork. He worked at a meat packing plant for a time before his father helped him get a job at the U.S. Treasury branch in the City. There he met Dorothy Finch, whom he married soon after—Washington was 20 years old, and Dorothy was 17 years old. Seven months later, the U.S. was drawn into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on Sunday, December 7, 1941.
In 1942, Washington was drafted into the United States Army for the war effort and after basic training, sent overseas as part of a racially-segregated unit of the U.S. Army Air Corps unit of Engineers. After the American invasion of the Philippines in 1944 on Leyte Island and later the main Luzon island, Washington was a part of a unit building runways for long-range heavy bombers such as the B-29 and protective fighter aircraft, to "island-hop" to further bases on Northern Pacific islands of Saipan, Tinian and later to Iwo Jima and Okinawa to get closer to bomb the home islands of the Japanese Empire, and have airfields on the route to handle returning damaged aircraft or refueling outgoing planes. Eventually, Washington rose to the rank of First Sergeant in the Army Air Corps (later in the War renamed the U.S. Army Air Forces}. In her biography of Mayor Washington, Florence Hamlish Levinsohn surmises that the three years Washington spent fighting for his country in the South and Central Pacific Ocean campaigns against Japan while experiencing racial prejudice and discrimination helped strongly shape his views on racial justice back home in the U.S.A., undergirding him in the ground-breaking mayoral run to come 38 years later.
In the summer of 1946, at age 24 and a war veteran, Washington enrolled at Roosevelt College (now Roosevelt University). The College was founded in the waning years of World War II, after a revolt by professors of the Central YMCA College (sponsored by the Young Men's Christian Association - known as "The Y"). Edward J. Sparling, former President of "The Y", resigned rather than turn over demographic data requested by the Trustees of "The Y". He suspected the data would be used to set up a quota system, preventing returning veterans from enrolling at Central YMCA College. With 68 other faculty members who left, Sparling formed the first integrated private college at R.C. in Chicago, and one of few at the time in the Nation.
Washington joined other groups of students not permitted to be enrolled in other local colleges. Local estimates place the student population of Roosevelt College, 3,948 people strong, at about 1/8 Black, 1/2 Jewish, with other races making up the balance. A full 75% of the students had enrolled because of the "nondiscriminatory progressive principles." By December 1946, Washington had fully involved himself in activities at Roosevelt. He chaired a fund-raising drive by students, and then was named to a Committee that supported city-wide efforts to outlaw "restrictive covenants" in housing, the legal means by which minorities (especially "Negroes"/Blacks and, to a lesser extent, Jews) were prohibited from purchasing real estate in predominantly white neighborhoods of the City.
In 1948, after the College had moved to the Auditorium Building, Washington was elected the third President of Roosevelt's Student Council. Under his leadership, the Student Council successfully petitioned the College to have student representation on Roosevelt's Faculty committees. At the first regional meeting of the newly- founded National Student Association in the spring of 1948, Washington and nine other delegates proposed student representation on College Faculties, and a "Bill of Rights" for students; both measures were roundly defeated.
The next year, Washington went to the state capital at Springfield to protest Illinois legislators' coming probe of "subversives". The probe of investigation would outlaw the Communist Party and require "loyalty oaths" for teachers. He led students' opposition to the Bills, although they would pass later in 1949.
During his Roosevelt College years, Washington came to be known for his stability. His friends said that he had a "remarkable ability to keep cool", reason carefully and walk a middle line. Washington intentionally avoided extremist activities, including street actions and sit-ins against racially segregated restaurants and businesses. Overall, Washington and other radical activists ended up sharing a mutual respect for each other, acknowledging both Washington's pragmatism and the activists' idealism. With the opportunities found only at Roosevelt College in the late 1940s, Washington's time at the Roosevelt College proved to be pivotal. Washington graduated in August 1949, with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. In addition to his activities at Roosevelt, he was a member of the fraternity "Phi Beta Sigma".
Northwestern University School of Law
Washington then applied and was admitted to study for the Law at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. During this time, Washington was divorced from Dorothy Finch. By some accounts, Harold and Dorothy had simply grown apart after Washington was sent overseas during the War during the first year of his marriage. Others saw both as young and headstrong, the relationship doomed from the beginning. Another friend of Washington's deemed Harold "not the marrying kind." He would not marry again, but continued to have relationships with other women; those who knew his longtime secretary would later report her commenting "If every woman Harold slept with stood at one end of City Hall, the building would sink five inches into LaSalle Street!".
At Northwestern Law School, Washington was the only black student in his class. (He joined six women in the class, one of them being Dawn Clark Netsch). As at Roosevelt, he entered school politics. In 1951, his last year, he was elected treasurer of the Junior Bar Association (JBA). The election was largely symbolic, however, and Washington's attempts to give the JBA more authority at Northwestern were largely unsuccessful. On campus, Washington joined the Nu Beta Epsilon fraternity, largely because he and the other minorities which constituted the fraternity were blatantly excluded from the other fraternities on campus. Overall, Washington stayed away from the activism that defined his years at Roosevelt. During the evenings and weekends, he worked to supplement his GI Bill income. He received his J.D. in 1952.
Legislative political career
Working for Metcalfe
From 1951 until he was first slated for election in 1965, Washington worked in the offices of the 3rd Ward Alderman, former Olympic athlete Ralph Metcalfe. Richard J. Daley was elected party chairman in 1952. Daley replaced C.C. Wimbush, an ally of William Dawson, on the party committee with Metcalfe. Under Metcalfe, the 3rd Ward ranked first in the city in the size of its Democratic plurality by 1961, a critical factor in Daley's mayoral election. While working under Metcalfe, Washington began to organize the 3rd Ward's Young Democrats (YD) organization. At YD conventions, the 3rd Ward would push for numerous black resolutions. Eventually, other black YD organizations would come to the 3rd Ward headquarters for advice on how to run their own organizations. Like he had at Roosevelt College, Washington avoided radicalism and preferred to work through the party to engender change. While working with the Young Democrats, Washington met Mary Ella Smith. They dated for the next 20 years, and in 1983 Washington proposed to Smith. In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Smith said that she never pressed Washington for marriage because she knew Washington's first love was politics, saying, "He was a political animal. He thrived on it, and I knew any thoughts of marriage would have to wait. I wasn't concerned about that. I just knew the day would come."
In 1960, with Lemuel Bentley, Bennett Johnson, Luster Jackson and others, Washington founded the Chicago League of Negro Voters, one of the first African-American political organizations in the city. In its first election, Bentley drew 60,000 votes for city clerk. After dropping out of view after the elections, it resurfaced as the group Protest at the Polls in 1963. Washington participated in the planning process to further the progressive goals of 3rd Ward YDs. By 1967, the independent candidates had gained traction within the black community, winning several aldermanic seats; by 1983, the League of Negro Voters would be instrumental in Washington's run for Mayor. By then, the YDs had begun to lose influence in the party, as more black voters supported independent candidates. Latinos also began to organize politically with the announcement of Jose (Cha-Cha) Jimenez for Alderman of the 46th Ward in 1973. Jimenez and his Young Lords were the first Latinos to hold a rally in 1982 for Washington's 1983 mayoral bid. When Washington won, Jimenez introduced the new mayor in June 1983 before a crowd of 100,000 Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park.
Illinois House (1965–1976)
After Democratic party leaders failed to reapportion districts as required by the census every ten years, an at-large election was held in January 1965 to fill 177 seats in the Illinois House of Representatives. With the Republicans and Democrats combining to slate only 118 candidates, independent voting groups seized the opportunity to slate candidates. The League of Negro Voters put together a "Third Slate" of 59 candidates, announcing the slate on June 27, 1964. Shortly afterwards, Daley put together a slate including Adlai Stevenson III and Washington. The Third Slate was then thrown out by the Illinois Election Board because of "insufficient signatures" on the nominating petitions. In response, the League issued an "orange ballot", urging voters to vote for three Republicans and fifteen Democrats. In the election, Washington received the second-largest amount of ballots in the election, behind Stevenson.
Washington's years in the Illinois House were marked by tension with Democratic Party leadership. In 1967, he was ranked by the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI) as the fourth-most independent legislator in the Illinois House and named Best Legislator of the Year. His defiance of the "idiot card", a sheet of paper that directed legislators' votes on every issue, attracted the attention of party leaders, who moved to remove Washington from his legislative position. Daley often told Metcalfe to dump Washington as a candidate, but Metcalfe did not want to risk losing the 3rd Ward's Young Democrats, who were mostly aligned with Washington. Washington backed Renault Robinson, a black police officer and one of the founders of the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League (AAPL). The aim of the APPL was to fight racism directed against minority officers by the rest of the predominately white department. Soon after the creation of the group, Robinson was written up for minor infractions, suspended, reinstated, and then placed on the graveyard shift to a single block behind central police headquarters. Robinson approached Washington to fashion a bill creating a civilian review board, consisting of both patrolmen and officers, to monitor police brutality. Both black independent and white liberal legislators refused to back the bill, fearing to challenge Daley's stronghold on the police force.
After Washington announced he would support the AAPL, Metcalfe refused to protect him from Daley. Washington believed he had the support of John Touhy, Speaker of the House and a former party chair. Instead, Touhy criticized Washington and then allayed Daley's anger. In exchange for the party's backing, Washington would serve on the Chicago Crime Commission, the group Daley formed to investigate the AAPL's charges. The commission promptly found the AAPL's charges "unwarranted". An angry and humiliated Washington admitted that on the commission, he felt like Daley's "showcase nigger". In 1969, Daley removed Washington's name from the slate; only by the intervention of Cecil Partee, a party loyalist, was Washington reinstated. The Democratic Party supported Jim Taylor, a former professional boxer, Streets and Sanitation worker, over Washington. With Partee and his own ward's support, Washington defeated Taylor.
His years in the House were focused on becoming an advocate for black rights. He continued work on the Fair Housing Act, and worked to strengthen the state's Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). In addition, he worked on a state Civil Rights Act, which would strengthen employment and housing provisions in the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. In his first session, all of his bills were sent to committee or tabled. Like his time in Roosevelt College, Washington relied on parliamentary tactics (e.g., writing amendments guaranteed to fail in a vote) to enable him to bargain for more concessions.
Washington also passed bills honoring civil rights figures. He passed a resolution honoring Metcalfe, his mentor. He also passed a resolution honoring James J. Reeb, a Unitarian minister who was beaten to death in Selma, Alabama by a segregationist mob. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he introduced a bill aimed at making King's birthday a state holiday; it was tabled and later vetoed. It was not until 1973 that Washington was able, with Partee's help in the Senate, to have the bill enacted and signed by the governor. In 1975, Washington was named chairman of the Judiciary Committee with the election of William A. Redmond as Speaker of the House. The same year, Partee, now President of the Senate and eligible for his pension, decided to retire from the Senate. Although Daley and Taylor declined at first, at Partee's insistence, Washington was slated for the seat and received the party's support. In 1976, Washington was elected to the Illinois Senate.
In addition to Daley's strong-armed tactics, Washington's time in the Illinois House was also marred by problems with tax returns and allegations of not performing services owed to his clients. In her biography, Levinsohn questions whether the timing of Washington's legal troubles was politically motivated. In November 1966, Washington was re-elected to the house over Daley's strong objections; by January 1967, the second complaint in a string of six complaints against Washington had been filed. (The first had been filed earlier, in 1964.)
A letter asking Washington to explain the matter was sent on January 5, 1967. After failing to respond to numerous summons and subpoenas, the commission recommend a five-year suspension on March 18, 1968. A formal response to the charges did not occur until July 10, 1969. In his reply, Washington said that "sometimes personal problems are enlarged out of proportion to the entire life picture at the time and the more important things are abandoned." In 1970, the Board of Managers of the Chicago Bar Association ruled that Washington's license be suspended for only one year, not the five recommended; the total amount in question between all six clients was $205.
In 1971, Washington was charged with failure to file tax returns for four years, although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) claimed to have evidence for nineteen years. (Top campaign aides would later say that nineteen was closer to the truth.) Judge Sam Perry noted that he was "disturbed that this case ever made it to my courtroom" — while Washington had paid his taxes, he ended up owing the government a total of $508 as a result of not filing his returns. Typically, the IRS handled such cases in civil court, or within its bureaucracy. Washington pleaded "no contest" and was sentenced to forty days in Cook County Jail, a $1,000 fine, and three years probation.
Illinois Senate (1976–1980)
Human Rights Act of 1980
In the Illinois Senate, Washington's main focus worked to pass 1980's Illinois Human Rights Act. Legislators rewrote all of the human rights laws in the state, restricting discrimination based on "race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, physical or mental disability, military status, sexual orientation, or unfavorable discharge from military service in connection with employment, real estate transactions, access to financial credit, and the availability of public accommodations." The bill's origins began in 1970 with the rewriting of the Illinois Constitution. The new constitution required all governmental agencies and departments to be reorganized for efficiency. Republican governor James R. Thompson reorganized low-profile departments before his re-election in 1978. In 1979, during the early stages of Thompson's term and immediately in the aftermath of the largest vote for a gubernatorial candidate in the state's history, he called for the human rights reorganization. The bill would consolidate and remove some agencies, eliminating a number of political jobs. Some Democratic legislators would vote down any measure backed by Washington, Thompson and other Republican legislators.
For many years, human rights had been a campaign issue brought up and backed by Democrats. Thompson's staffers brought the bill to Washington and other black legislators before it would be presented to the floor. Washington made adjustments in anticipation of some legislators' concerns regarding the bill, before speaking for it in April 1979. Washington brought in both black and white liberal opinion makers to explain how they felt about the bill. On May 24, 1979, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 59 to one, with two voting present and six absent. The victory in the highly conservative Senate was attributed by a Thompson staffer to Washington's "calm noncombative presentation".
However, the bill stalled in the house. State Representative Susan Catania insisted on attaching an amendment to allow women guarantees in the use of credit cards. This effort was assisted by Carol Moseley Braun, a civil rights advocate and liberal from Hyde Park. State Representatives Jim Taylor and Larry Bullock introduced over one hundred amendments, including the text of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, to try to stall the bill. With Catania's amendment, the bill passed the House, but the Senate refused to accept the amendment. On June 30, 1979, the legislature adjourned.
U.S. House (1980–1983)
In 1980, Washington was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois' 1st congressional district. He defeated incumbent Representative Bennett Stewart in the Democratic primary. Anticipating that the Democratic Party would challenge him in his bid for re-nomination in 1982, Washington spent much of his first term campaigning for re-election, often travelling back to Chicago to campaign. Washington missed many House votes, an issue that would come up in his campaign for Mayor in 1983. Washington's major congressional accomplishment involved legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act, legislation that opponents had argued was only necessary in an emergency. Others, including Congressman Henry Hyde, had submitted amendments designed to seriously weaken the power of the Voting Rights Act.
Although he had been called "crazy" for railing against Ronald Reagan's deep cuts to social programs on the Congress floor, Associated Press political reporter Mike Robinson noted that Washington worked "quietly and thoughtfully" as the time came to pass the act. During hearings in the South regarding the Voting Rights Act, Washington asked questions that shed light on tactics used to prevent African Americans from voting (among them, closing registration early, literacy tests, and gerrymandering). After the amendments were submitted on the floor, Washington spoke from prepared speeches that avoided rhetoric and addressed the issues. As a result, the amendments were defeated, and Congress passed the Voting Rights Act Extension. By the time Washington faced re-election in 1982, he had cemented his popularity in the 1st Congressional District. Jane Byrne could not find one serious candidate to run against Washington for his re-election campaign. He had collected 250,000 signatures to get on the ballot, although only 610 signatures (0.5% of the voters in the previous election) were required. With his re-election to Congress locked up, Washington turned his attention to the next Chicago mayoral election.
Mayor of Chicago (1983–1987)
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2008)|
In the February 22, 1983, Democratic mayoral primary, community organizers registered more than 100,000 new African American, Latino and poor and independent white voters, while the white vote was split between the incumbent mayor Jane Byrne and future mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. Washington won with 37% of the vote, versus 33% for Byrne and 30% for Daley.
Although winning the Democratic primary is normally tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Chicago, after his primary victory Washington found that his Republican opponent, former state legislator Bernard Epton (earlier considered a nominal stand-in), was supported by many white Democrats and ward organizations, including the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Alderman Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. Epton's campaign referred to, among other things, Washington's conviction for failure to file income tax returns. (He had paid the taxes, but had not filed a return.) However, Washington appealed to his constituency in his mayoral political campaign, and stressed such things as reforming the Chicago patronage system and the need for a jobs program in a tight economy. In the April 12, 1983, mayoral general election, Washington defeated Epton by 3.7%, 51.7% to 48.0%, to become mayor of Chicago. Washington was sworn in as mayor on April 29, 1983, and resigned his Congressional seat the following day.
During his tenure as mayor, Washington lived at the Hampton House apartments in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Among the changes he made to the city's government was creating its first environmental-affairs department under the management of longtime Great Lakes environmentalist Lee Botts. Washington's victory marked the end of race lines, such as Western Avenue in Chicago Lawn, which had kept black Americans from living in white neighborhoods. Washington's first term in office was characterized by ugly, racially polarized battles dubbed "Council Wars", referring to the then-recent Star Wars films. A 29–21 City Council majority refused to enact Washington's reform legislation and prevented him from appointing reform nominees to boards and commissions. Other first-term items include overall city population loss, increased crime, and a massive decrease in ridership on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). This helped earn the city the nickname "Beirut on the Lake", and many people wondered if Chicago would ever recover or face the more permanent declines of other cities in the U.S. Midwest.
The 29, also known as the "Vrdolyak 29", was led by "the Eddies": Alderman Ed Vrdolyak, Finance Chair Edward Burke and Parks Commissioner Edmund Kelly. The Eddies were supported by the younger Daley (now State's Attorney), U.S. Congressmen Dan Rostenkowski and William Lipinski, and other powerful white Democrats. During one of the first Council meetings, Washington was unable to get his appointments approved. Washington and the 21 ward representatives that supported him walked out of the meeting after a quorum had been established. Vrdolyak and the other 28 were able to appoint all of the boards and chairs. Later lawsuits submitted by Washington and others were dismissed because it was determined that the appointments were legally made.
Washington ruled by veto. The 29 could not get the 30th vote they needed to override Washington's veto; African American, Latino and white liberal aldermen supported Washington despite pressure from the Eddies. Meanwhile, in the courts, Washington kept the pressure on to reverse the redistricting of City Council wards that white Democrats had pushed through during the Byrne years. When special elections were ordered in 1986, victorious Washington-backed candidates gave him a 24–26 split council. Six weeks later, when Luis Gutiérrez won the run-off election in the 26th ward, Washington had the 25-25 split he needed. His vote as chairman of the City Council enabled him to break the deadlock and enact his programs.
Washington defeated former mayor Jane Byrne in the February 24, 1987 Democratic mayoral primary by 7.2%, 53.5% to 46.3%, and in the April 7, 1987 mayoral general election defeated Vrdolyak (Illinois Solidarity Party) by 11.8%, 53.8% to 42.8%, with Northwestern University business professor Donald Haider (Republican) getting 4.3%, to win reelection to a second term as mayor. Cook County Assessor Thomas Hynes (Chicago First Party), a Daley ally, dropped out of the race 36 hours before the mayoral general election. During Washington's short second term, the Eddies fell from power: Vrdolyak became a Republican, Kelly was removed from his powerful parks post, and Burke lost his power as finance chair.
Harold Washington's Political Education Project
From 1984 to 1987, Harold Washington's Political Education Project (PEP) served as Washington’s political arm, organizing both Washington’s campaigns and the campaigns of his political allies.
Harold Washington established the Political Education Project in 1984. This organization supported Washington’s interests in electoral politics beyond the Office of the Mayor. PEP helped organize political candidates for statewide elections in 1984 and managed Washington's participation in the 1984 Democratic National Convention as a "favorite son" presidential candidate.
In 1986, the Special Aldermanic Elections changed the balance of power in the Chicago City Council. PEP used its political connections to support progressive candidates such as Luis Gutierrez and Jesus Garcia through field operations, voter registration and Election Day poll monitoring. Once elected, these aldermen helped break the stalemate between Washington and his opponents in the City Council. Due to PEP’s efforts, Washington’s City Council legislation gained ground and his popularity grew as the 1987 mayoral election approached.
In preparation for the 1987 mayoral election, PEP formed the Committee to Re-Elect Mayor Washington. This organization carried out fundraising for the campaign, conducted campaign events, and coordinated volunteers. PEP staff members, such as Joseph Gardner and Helen Shiller, went on to play leading roles in Chicago politics. The organization disbanded upon Harold Washington’s death.
Harold Washington's Political Education Project Records is an archival collection detailing the organization's work. It is located in the Chicago Public Library Special Collections, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago, Illinois.
On November 25, 1987, at 11:00 a.m., Chicago Fire Department paramedics were called to City Hall. Washington's press secretary, Alton Miller, had been discussing school board issues with the mayor when Washington suddenly slumped over on his desk, falling unconscious. After failing to revive Washington in his office, paramedics rushed him to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Further resuscitation attempts failed, and Washington was pronounced dead at 1:36 p.m. At Daley Plaza, Richard Keen, project director for the Westside Habitat for Humanity, announced Washington's official time of death to a separate gathering of Chicagoans. Initial reactions to the pronouncement of his death were of shock and sadness, as many blacks believed that Washington was the only top Chicago official who would address their concerns. Thousands of Chicagoans attended his wake in the lobby of City Hall between November 27 and November 29, 1987. On November 30, Rev. B. Herbert Martin officiated Washington's "upbeat, hard-clapping funeral service" in Christ Universal Temple at 119th Street and Ashland Avenue in Chicago. After the service, Washington was buried in Oak Woods Cemetery on the South Side of Chicago.
Immediately after Washington's death, rumors about how Washington died began to surface. On January 6, 1988, Dr. Antonio Senat, Washington's personal physician, denied "unfounded speculations" that Washington had cocaine in his system at the time of his death, or that foul play was involved. Cook County Medical Examiner Robert J. Stein performed an autopsy on Washington and concluded that Washington had died of a heart attack. Washington had weighed 284 pounds (129 kg), and suffered from hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and an enlarged heart. On June 20, 1988, Alton Miller again indicated that drug reports on Washington had come back negative, and that Washington had not been poisoned prior to his death. Dr. Stein stated that the only drug in Washington's system had been lidocaine, which is used to stabilize the heart after a heart attack takes place. The drug was given to Washington either by paramedics, or by doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago student David Nelson painted Mirth & Girth, a caricature that depicted Washington wearing women's lingerie and holding a pencil, which was briefly displayed in a hallway at the school on May 11, 1988. The painting kicked off a First Amendment and civil rights controversy between Art Institute students and black aldermen. Nelson and the ACLU eventually split a US$95,000 (1994, US$138,000 in 2008) settlement from the city. Coincidentally, Bernie Epton, Washington's opponent in the racially charged 1983 general election, would follow him in death 18 days later, on December 13, 1987.
Despite the bickering in City Council, Washington seemed to relish his role as Chicago's ambassador to the world. At a party held shortly after his re-election on April 7, 1987, he said to a group of supporters, "In the old days, when you told people in other countries that you were from Chicago, they would say, 'Boom-boom! Rat-a-tat-tat!' Nowadays, they say [crowd joins with him], 'How's Harold?'!"
In later years, various city facilities and institutions would be named or renamed after the late mayor to commemorate his legacy. The new building housing the main branch of the Chicago Public Library, located at 400 South State Street, was named the Harold Washington Library Center. The Chicago Public Library Special Collections, located on the building's 9th floor, house the Harold Washington Archives and Collections. These archives hold numerous collections related to Harold Washington's life and political career.
Five months after Mayor Washington's sudden death in office, a ceremony was held on April 1988, renaming the former Loop College at 30 Lake Avenue near the famous Chicago "Loop" near the parks of the lakefront along Lake Michigan as Harold Washington College, a part of the City Colleges of Chicago. In August 2004, the 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) Harold Washington Cultural Center was opened to the public at 4701 S. King Drive in the historic South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville. Across from the Hampton House apartments where Washington lived, a city park was renamed Harold Washington Park, which was known for "Harold's Parakeets", a colony of feral monk parakeets that inhabited an ash trees in the park. On the campus of Chicago State University, at 9501 S. King Drive, one of the campus's buildings is named Harold Washington Hall.
- Hamlish Levinsohn, p. 246, relates that Washington identified himself with his grandfather and father Roy's Methodist background. Rivlin, p. 42, notes that at age 4, Harold and his brother, 6, were sent to a private Benedictine school in Wisconsin. The arrangement lasted one week before they ran away from the school and hitchhiked home. After three more years and thirteen escapes, Roy placed Harold in Chicago city public schools.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 42-43.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), p. 44.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 51-53.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 54-55, 59, 62.
- United States Congress (Date unknown). "Harold Washington". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 26, 2008.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), p. 63.
- Rivlin (1992), p. 53.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), p. 66.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 68-70.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 74-75.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 86-90.
- Kup (December 27, 1987). "Kup on Sunday". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 91-92, 97.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 98-99.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 100-106.
- Rivlin (1992), pp. 50-52.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 107-108.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 109-110.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 121-122.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 143-144.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 146-152.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 154-156.
- Rivlin (1992), pp. 178-180.
- Illinois General Assembly (1970). "(775 ILCS 5/) Illinois Human Rights Act.". Retrieved April 21, 2008.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 130-131.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 132-134.
- Cook County Board of Commissioners (December 4, 2007). "Resolution 08-R-09 (Honoring the life of Harold Washington)". Retrieved January 26, 2006.[dead link]
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), pp. 166-172.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), p.172.
- Hamlish Levinsohn (1983), p.176.
- Davis, Robert (April 12, 1983). "The election of Harold Washington the first black mayor of Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 16, 2008.
- Crimmins, Jerry. "Lavelle At Home In Hot Seat," Chicago Tribune. August 22, 1986 http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-08-22/news/8603020866_1_elections-mayor-harold-washington-george-dunne
- Cassel, Doug. "Is Tim Evans For Real?" Chicago Reader. March 16, 1989 http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/is-tim-evans-for-real/Content?oid=873531
- "Favorite Son Slate Planned". The New York Times. January 4, 1984. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Harold Washington's Political Education Project Records, Chicago Public Library Special Collections, Series IV. Special Aldermanic Election, boxes 29-35, 123 https://bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/sites/bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/files/Finding%20Aids/Harold%20Washington%27s%20Political%20Education%20Project%20Records.pdf
- Harold Washington's Political Education Project Records, Chicago Public Library Special Collections, Series V. 1987 Mayoral Election, boxes 35-100, 123, 124, 126 https://bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/sites/bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/files/Finding%20Aids/Harold%20Washington%27s%20Political%20Education%20Project%20Records.pdf
- Heard, Jaquelyn and Andrew Fegelman, "Gardner Loses Fight With Cancer," Chicago Tribune, May 17, 1996. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-05-17/news/9605170134_1_jane-byrne-mayor-harold-washington-joseph-gardner
- Harold Washington's Political Education Project Records, Chicago Public Library Special Collections https://bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/sites/bmrcprocessingproject.uchicago.edu/files/Finding%20Aids/Harold%20Washington%27s%20Political%20Education%20Project%20Records.pdf
- Davis, Robert (November 26, 1987). "Mayor's death stuns city - black leader, 65, on verge of a dream". Retrieved January 26, 2008.
- Brotman, Barbara (November 26, 1987). "Chicagoans mourn the loss of their leader". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 26, 2008.
- Strong, James; Baumann, Edward (November 28, 1987). "Mayor to lie in state over weekend". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
- Braden, William (December 1, 1987). "Fond farewell - Song and laughter temper the tears". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
- Williams, Lillian (January 7, 1988). "Washington's doctor debunks foul play talk". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
- Unknown (June 21, 1988). "No drug link to ex-mayor's death". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
- Hanania, Ray; Cronin, Barry (May 13, 1988). "Art Institute surrenders - Will bar controversial painting of Washington". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved January 27, 2008.
- Lehmann, Daniel J.; Golab, Art (September 21, 1994). "City settles suit over Washington painting". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 10, 2008.
- Terry, Don; Pitt, Leon (April 8, 1987). "Mayor proves results worth singing about". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 27, 2007.
- Harold Washington Archives and Collections at Chicago Public Library http://www.chipublib.org/branch/details/library/harold-washington/p/Spcharold/
- Monk Parakeet Nests in Harold Washington Park
- Hamlish Levinsohn, Florence (1983). Harold Washington: A Political Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-0914091417.
- Rivlin, Gary (1992). Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-1468-3.
- "Harold" Program 84— A This American Life radio story that aired on November 21, 1997. It recounts the political history of Washington's mayoralty. Another program on This American Life is Act 4 "The Other Guy," Program 376: Wrong Side of History. This program recounts the story of Bernie Epton, the opponent in the mayoral race against Harold Washington.
- The Harold Washington Commemorative Year[dead link]
- Harold Washington Archives and Collections at Chicago Public Library
- "The Legacy of Chicago's Harold Washington", Cheryl Corley, All Things Considered, November 23, 2007. Accessed November 23, 2007.
- Harold Washington on the Legacy of Richard J. Daley, video excerpt from a 1986 documentary special on Richard J. Daley
- Harold Washington at Find a Grave
- Harold Washington's Political Education Project Records, Black Metropolis Research Consortium
|United States House of Representatives|
Bennett M. Stewart
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st congressional district
Charles A. Hayes
|Mayor of Chicago