McDonald says he wants the right to protect himself from gang members who threaten the Morgan Park neighborhood where he lives.
McDonald's case will be argued before the nation's high court next week. ABC 7's Paul Meincke talked with McDonald.
McDonald is a retired maintenance engineer who moved to Chicago in the early 1950s with $18 in his pocket. At this point in his life, he says, he surely didn't set out to make history, but that's clearly where he finds himself.
"I have a strong drive to do what I can to right what I see is wrong," said McDonald.
For the better part of four decades, McDonald has lived in Morgan Park. He and his wife raised their family here. Ten years after they first moved in, Chicago enacted its handgun ban, an idea McDonald -- at the time -- applauded.
But, in the years that have followed, McDonald says his neighborhood has changed. More crime. He has been broken into three times, and he has long since concluded that the gun ban is a bust.
"It doesn't work," McDonald said. "It doesn't work simply, because the senior citizens, the law-abiding citizens like myself, is being victimized by saying you can't have a handgun in your own home. Why? Tell me what I can't have in my own home. I'm not out robbing nobody."
After attending an NRA rally four years ago, McDonald was recruited by gun rights activists to serve as a possible plaintiff in legal action against the city.
"I was skeptical at first. You know. I'm thinking, 'Wait a minute here - little ol' me.' Hey, I'm all up in here with lawyers and things," said McDonald.
McDonald joked with the lawyers that his color must have a bearing on his selection, but he ultimately decided that race and politics were secondary to a cause he believes in. So, he agreed to be the lead plaintiff, "McDonald v. the City of Chicago and Mayor Richard M. Daley."
"Does this lead to everyone having a gun in our society? If they think that's the answer they're greatly mistaken. Then, why don't we do away with the court system and go back to the Old West where you have a gun and I have a gun and we settle it in the streets?" said Mayor Daley.
"I don't think anybody involved in this case -- certainly no one I've met -- is hoping for the right to own a handgun in Chicago so they can say, 'Wow, finally I can go knock over that 7-11'," said David Sigale, attorney for McDonald.
When the case is argued next Tuesday before the Supreme court, Otis McDonald will be in the audience, mindful that whatever the legal outcome his name is now etched in history.
"I didn't think too much about that. I just find myself here and I pray every night, and let the lord give me the strength to endure," McDonald said.
Otis McDonald presents a public face on the debate different than the more traditional white, rural gun rights advocate. That aside, the question before the Supreme Court next week is whether its decision in the summer of 2008 to strike down the Washington, DC, handgun ban can apply equally to Chicago and beyond.