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CHICAGO (CBS) – At one time, Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood was one of the best neighborhoods on the South Side — home to many famous Chicagoans, including Mahalia Jackson.
It has seen some changes — some good, some bad. But those that live there now are proud of where they call home, CBS 2’s Kate Sullivan reports.
In 1962, CBS 2 reporter Jim Williams moved into a small, but brand-new home in Chatham.
“Twenty thousand dollars my folks paid for this house, and we moved in 50 years ago,” he tells Sullivan on a tour.
With a policeman father and a teacher for a mother, Williams and his brother rode bikes down the street. Times have changed, but his love for where he grew up hasn’t.
“Well, I mean just look at this, look at how well-manicured these lawns are. Look how they take care of their property. People have a lot of pride here. They’ve always had it and they still have it today,” Williams says.
Chatham remains a middle-class black neighborhood. First it was home to Italian stonemasons, then Hungarian and Irish railroad workers. In the 1950s, it saw a huge shift from 1 percent black to 64 percent in 1960.
At Mather’s Café, Chatham residents are proud to have seen this area evolve. And evolve it has, from a self-contained community with its own radio station WVON and first-ever African American bank, where Mahalia Jackson and Ernie Banks lived right down the street. It is now home to Walmart, Target, Home Depot and the first-ever Nike outlet.
Melinda Kelly says the best is yet to come for Chatham. She works with small businesses to strengthen their skills and resources, even offering microloans to those eligible.
“It’s an aging community, but it’s a savvy community. They know the power of their dollars. They support businesses who do good to their community.”
Whatever the future holds for Chatham, those who grew up here, like Williams, will never forget what it represented.
“When I tell people where I grew up, I always say Chatham,” he says.
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