Harold Washington, Chicago's 1st Black mayor, would have turned 100 today

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The city of Chicago celebrated what would have been Harold Washington's 100th birthday Friday.

The park that now bears the city's first Black mayor's name at 53rd and the lakefront was one of his favorite places in the city. The late mayor was on the minds of many there Friday.


"He really came to change the city," said Darva Watkins, Harold Washington Park president.

Antoinette Simmons was only five when Washington won his mayoral race and made history in 1983.

"It was joyous," she recalled. "A party in the house."

Some recalled his legacy and offered prayers of gratitude at his graveside.

"He really cared about Chicago," said Robert Floyd Cole, Plump Foundation. "He loved Chicago."


"We need this in Chicago right now. If we had the energy, the spirit he left and had here, we would be a better city today," said Chicagoan Armel, who declined to share his last name.

Many of the memories Washington induces have a blue and white theme like the buttons at Harold Washington Library that are reminiscent of his campaign buttons.

"He refused to be considered 'the Black mayor,' said Pastor Rich Redmond, who serves on the Harold Washington Legacy Committee. "He wanted to be known as the mayor who happened to be Black, and that was his point: I'm going to represent all of Chicago."

The Harold Washington Legacy Committee shared the buttons so that anyone passing by State Street could carry the memory of Harold Washington with them today.
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