Reaction to death of John Stroger

January 18, 2008 4:00:29 PM PST
John Stroger is being remembered as a legendary public servant who championed the cause of the common man. He learned politics during the heyday of Chicago's Democratic machine. He worked his way up the political ladder from the late 1960's and became the board's leader in 1994.

During his tenure, the county replaced the 88-year-old Cook County Hospital with a new building that was named in Stroger's honor. It his most visible legacy, but not the only one.

Friend and foe alike agreed Friday that whether you were with him or against John Stroger brought a dignity to debate that is frequently lacking in today's politics. Of course, John Stroger was a throw-back to the old-school. He believed in helping those who couldn't help themselves and along the way he also helped friends and family.

For more than a decade John Stroger ruled Cook County. And he did it his way.

"You know, my friend, if you want to be president of the county board, you're going to have to show more dignity and respect. This ain't Cicero now,"

"John Stroger always had a certain wry amusement on his face, even in the midst of political fighting. He took it all not quite as seriously as some. He had a great sense of humor and people loved him for that," said Forrest Claypool, Cook County commissioner.

Claypool is among reformers on the county board that frequently butted heads with Stroger.

Whether the squabble involved a budget battle, or padding the payroll with patronage, Stroger made no apologies for the way he ran Cook County government.

"He truly believed you helped your kids. He truly believed you helped your friends and he didn't understand why someone thought it would be a better idea to just give these jobs out to people you don't know," said Mike Quigley, Cook County commissioner.

The Stroger legacy can be seen in the hospital that bares his name, aA hospital for people who have no other options. County Board Finance Chairman John Daley remembers touring the building with Stroger when it opened.

"He was so proud that finally you people will be treated with dignity, won't be waiting in long wards. It's a hospital equal to any in the city," said John Daley, county board finance chairman.

Stroger took a big risk for the Daley family in the early 1980's, supporting Richard M. Daley in the race for mayor against Harold Washington.

"That was very hard to do in his community," John Daley said. "But he believed he had a commitment and friendship with my dad, because my dad helped him, and he was willing to help Rich."

"Loyal." It's a word heard frequently Friday as people talked about John Stroger. He was a product of the Democratic machine and did his share to be keep it up and running.