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
Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1994 – January 1, 1997
Preceded by Benjamin K. Miller[1]
Succeeded by James D. Heiple
Member of the Supreme Court of Illinois
In office
November 2, 1990 – August 30, 2000
Personal details
Born Michael Anthony Bilandic
(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, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Heather Morgan (m. 1977–2002)
Children Michael Bilandic Jr.
Residence Old Town, Chicago
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[2]

Michael Anthony Bilandic (February 13, 1923 – January 15, 2002) was an American 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 (1976–79)[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.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3]

Chicago Blizzard of '79[edit]

During January 1979, a blizzard struck Chicago and effectively closed down the city. The city's slow response to the debilitating storm was publicly blamed on Bilandic. Additionally, as part of attempts to deal with the storm, Bilandic ordered Chicago 'L' trains to bypass many intermediate stops, particularly affecting African–American neighborhoods on the South Side of the city,[4] and angering that large voter base.

Chicago Mayoral Election '79[edit]

The former longtime head of Chicago's consumer affairs department, Jane Byrne (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 that had dominated Chicago politics for decades. 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. 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.[5]

Later career[edit]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Personal life and death[edit]

Chicago's Archbishop John Cardinal Cody married Bilandic to Chicago socialite Heather Morgan on June 1, 1977. Bilandic and Morgan had a son, Michael Bilandic Jr. in 1978.[8] 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. ^ Illinois Courts - Benjamin Miller
  2. ^ NNDB: Michael A. Bilandic
  3. ^ a b c Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., p. 167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  4. ^ Eyes on the Prize: Part 8 "Back to the Movement" (1979–1983) on YouTube PBS 1990 at 28:43
  5. ^ Jane Byrne elected mayor of Chicago, February 27, 1979, Chicago Tribune
  6. ^ Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., pp. 166–167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  7. ^ Michael A. Bilandic, Previous Illinois Supreme Court Justice
  8. ^ 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