Black and Powerful: Karen Freeman-Wilson

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Karen Freeman-Wilson is a familiar name in the Chicago-area. She's an attorney, former judge, politician and now President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League.

"I was raised by my parents to serve," Freeman-Wilson explained to ABC 7's Hosea Sanders in episode 11 of "Black & Powerful." "By the time I was seven I had a sense that I wanted to serve people," she said.

Freeman-Wilson described her work as her calling, and said she was not only inspired by her parents, but also the example set by former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher. He became one of the first Black mayors of a major U.S. city when elected in 1967, and was the first Black mayor of Gary. Freeman-Wilson grew up in northwest Indiana under Hatcher's leadership and described that time as a, "blessing."

Freeman-Wilson followed in Hatcher's footsteps. After graduating from Harvard College, Harvard Law and serving as a judge and Indiana Attorney General, Freeman-Wilson was elected mayor of her hometown. She served in that role from 2012 to 2019, becoming the first woman mayor of Gary and the first Black woman mayor in the state of Indiana. She said being a woman leader came with some pushback, but she stayed true to her mission of bringing people together to have a positive impact.

"Just come in with confidence and because you're prepared, you do what you need to do," Freeman-Wilson said.

As President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, Freeman-Wilson said all the work she enjoys doing, including economic development, small business development and supporting young people has been combined into one role.

"My legacy, I hope, will be to leave everyplace better than (how) I found it," she said.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.