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Harold Washington

Harold Washington (April 15, 1922-November 25, 1987) was the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, Illinois. Mayoral Term: 1983-1987

Chicago's first Black mayor, Harold Washington was able to win the primary because Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley split the white vote. Under any other conditions, Washington probably would not have had a chance at the Mayor's office. He was divorced, a convicted tax dodger, and a lawyer who had been disbarred for cheating his clients. His first term in office was characterised by Council Wars, in which Washington had to fight the white-held City Council, led by "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak. In one famous comment on the wars, Washington declared that he held a majority, despite the fact that his faction numbered only 21 as opposed to Vrdolyak's 29 members. His second term went smoother and saw Vrdolyak's political clout decrease when the alderman left the Democratic party. On November 25, 1987, Harold Washington died of a heart attack in his office and was buried in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. Harold Washington College in Chicago was named for the mayor, as was the central library of the Chicago Public Library system.