Michael Anthony Bilandic

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Michael Anthony Bilandic
49th Mayor of Chicago
In office
December 20, 1976 – April 16, 1979
Preceded by Richard J. Daley
Succeeded by Jane Byrne
Personal details
Born (1923-02-13)February 13, 1923
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died January 15, 2002(2002-01-15) (aged 78)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Resting place St. Mary's Cemetery

Evergreen Park, Illinois

Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Heather Morgan (m. 1977-2002; his death)
Children Michael Bilandic, Jr. (b. 1978)
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater De La Salle Institute
St. Mary's University of Minnesota
DePaul University College of Law
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps[1]

Michael Anthony Bilandic (February 13, 1923 – January 15, 2002) was an Illinois politician who served as the 49th mayor of Chicago, Illinois and as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Bilandic was a Democrat and a Croatian-American and served as mayor from December 20, 1976 to April 16, 1979. He practiced law in Chicago for several years, having graduated from the DePaul University College of Law. He served as an alderman in the Chicago City Council, representing the Southwest Side Bridgeport neighborhood.

Mayor of Chicago (1976-1979)[edit]

When Richard J. Daley died on December 20, 1976, the President Pro Tempore of the City Council, Wilson Frost, announced that he was now Acting Mayor. However, much of the city council disputed Frost's claim. After nearly a week of closed-door negotiations, the city council announced that Bilandic had been selected to serve as Acting Mayor for approximately six months until a by-election could be held to choose a mayor to fill out the remaining two years in the late Mayor Daley's term.

Bilandic was selected with the proviso that he would not contend in the election. Nonetheless, Bilandic chose to run in the spring election in 1977 and, still in his honeymoon period, received a popular mandate to assume Daley's mantle. However, popular though he was at this time, his term as mayor would prove to be short and difficult.

Bilandic had to face several labor disputes while in the mayor's office, including a gravediggers and cemetery owners' strike and a threatened strike by members of Lyric Opera of Chicago.[2]

The Chicago Butcher's Union worked to stop stores from selling fresh meat after 6 p.m., but Bilandic managed to work out a settlement.[2] Bilandic also had to face social unrest in June 1977 when an FALN bomb exploded in City Hall and started a two-day riot among the Puerto Rican community.[2]

Shortly before the end of his term, a blizzard struck Chicago and effectively closed down the city. The city's slow response to the debilitating storm was blamed on Bilandic's inaction. Jane Byrne, a long-time head of the city's consumer affairs department who was fired by Bilandic in 1977, ran against the mayor in the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. Besides dissatisfaction with the city's handling of the snowstorm, other issues hindered the mayor's reelection campaign. Republicans voted in the Democratic primary against the mayor in order to defeat the Democratic machine. Reverend Jesse Jackson endorsed Byrne for mayor. And North Side and Northwest Side voters voted for Byrne because they were angered by the Democratic leadership's slating of only South Side and Southwest Side candidates for mayor, clerk and treasurer; the incumbent clerk was from the Northwest Side. Bilandic very narrowly lost the primary, with 49% to Byrne's 51%; Byrne then won the general election with a record-setting 82% of the vote and became Chicago's first female mayor.[3] According to the leader of the Midwest Community Council, Nancy B. Jefferson, Bilandic ordered Chicago 'L' trains to not stop in African-American neighborhoods such as South Side.[4]

Bilandic oversaw the creation of ChicagoFest, a food and music festival held on Navy Pier. The Chicago Marathon had its first running in 1977 and Bilandic participated, finishing with a time of 4 hours.[5] A runner himself, Bilandic arranged to have five miles of unused equestrian paths along the lakefront converted to running paths.[citation needed] Following his term as mayor, Bilandic was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1984, and then the Illinois Supreme Court in 1990, where he served until 2000. From 1994 to 1996 he was the Illinois Chief Justice.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Chicago's Archbishop John Cardinal Cody married Bilandic to Chicago socialite Heather Morgan on June 1, 1977.[7] On January 15, 2002, Bilandic died from heart failure, just a month away from his 79th birthday and was interred in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.


  1. ^ NNDB: Michael A. Bilandic
  2. ^ a b c Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., p. 167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  3. ^ Jane Byrne elected mayor of Chicago, February 27, 1979, Chicago Tribune
  4. ^ Eyes on the Prize: Part 8 "Back to the Movement" (1979–1983) on YouTube PBS 1990 at 28:43
  5. ^ Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., pp. 166–167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  6. ^ Michael A. Bilandic, Previous Illinois Supreme Court Justice
  7. ^ Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., p. 166. ISBN 1-58261-239-0

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard J. Daley
Mayor of Chicago
Succeeded by
Jane Byrne