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Harold Washington

American politician

Harold Lee Washington (April 15, 1922 – November 25, 1987) was an American lawyer and politician. He became the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987. The Harold Washington Library is named after him.

Harold Lee Washington
Washington h.jpg
Photo ca. 1980
51st Mayor of Chicago
In office
April 29, 1983 – November 25, 1987
Preceded byJane Byrne
Succeeded byDavid Duvall Orr
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 1st district
In office
January 5, 1981 – April 30, 1983
Preceded byBennett M. Stewart
Succeeded byCharles A. Hayes
Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 26th district
In office
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
from the 26th district
In office
Personal details
Born(1922-04-15)April 15, 1922
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedNovember 25, 1987(1987-11-25) (aged 65)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Resting placeOak Woods Cemetery Chicago, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Nancy Dorothy Finch
Mary Ella Smith (? – 1987) (his death) (engaged)
ResidenceChicago, Illinois
Alma materRoosevelt College
Northwestern University School of Law
Military service
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Force
Years of service1942-1945
Battles/warsWorld War II

Washington was born on April 15, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois.[2] He studied at Roosevelt College and at Northwestern University School of Law. He was married to Nancy Dorothy Finch from 1942 until they divorced in 1950. Then he was engaged to Mary Ella Smith until his death in 1987. Washington died suddenly on November 25, 1987 in Chicago City Hall from a heart attack, aged 65.


  1. Hamlish Levinsohn, p. 246, says that Washington identified himself with his grandfather and father Roy's Methodist background. Rivlin, p. 42, notes that at age four, Harold and his brother, six, were sent to a private Benedictine school in Wisconsin. The arrangement lasted one week before they ran away from the school and hitchhiked home. After three more years and thirteen escapes, Roy placed Harold in Chicago public schools.
  2. Hamlish Levinsohn, Florence (1983). Harold Washington: A Political Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 091491409 Check |isbn= value: length (help).

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