Mayor Harold Washington, 2021 Hall of Fame Inductee


Provided photo

Harold Washington

In 1983, Harold Washington became Chicago’s 51st mayor and the first African American to be elected. He served as mayor until his death early in his second term in 1987.  

Born in 1922, Washington grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago and attended DuSable High School, a then newly established segregated public high school. Washington was part of its first graduating class and excelled in athletics. In 1942 he was drafted into the army and sent overseas. Washington eventually moved up in ranks becoming First Sergeant in the Army Air Force.  

After his discharge from the army, he attended Roosevelt College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1949. He later applied and was accepted into Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, earning his law degree in 1952. Before becoming mayor, Washington served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1965 to 1976. He also served in the Illinois state senate from 1976 to 1980 and eventually the U.S. House of Representatives from 1980 to 1983.  

During his second term in Congress; Washington was persuaded by black leaders to run for mayor of Chicago.   

–Lana Abdallah