Lorraine Morton, Evanston's first black mayor, remembered as trailblazer, history maker

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- Former Evanston Mayor Lorraine Morton is gone, but not forgotten.

Morton lived a purpose-driven life, accomplishing many firsts. She made Evanston her home after graduating Northwestern University and became the first educator of color to teach in a public school there.

Over the years, she went from principal, to alderman, to being elected the city's first African American mayor in 1993.

"She was the mayor for the city of Evanston. Not just a black mayor," said Delores Holmes, a former Evanston alderman.

Holmes had known Morton long before they worked together on city council and said Morton never met a stranger.

"If you were in the civic center building, her door was always open," said Ald. Ann Rainey.

Rainey became close friends with Morton after losing to her in the mayoral election. It was Rainey who suggested renaming the civic center after her.

"I think that was an honor that her family will always cherish," she said.

Morton's life was the ideal subject matter for Dino Robinson, founder of Shorefront Legacy Center, which chronicles African American history on the North Shore.

"We weren't thinking about a documentary at the time, we were just thinking about capturing her life story," Robinson said.

But after a few sessions, Robinson had enough material for a documentary on Morton, inspired by her mantra: only a life of service is a life worthwhile.

"I've seen her lead by example with that. Put aside politics, personal issues and really engage the community to a common good," Robinson said.

Morton was able to see a screening of the documentary last year, a few months before she died at the age of 99. Robinson is trying to take the film on the festival circuit.

Those who knew Morton said she had an impact on the community that will last for generations to come.
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