By Jim Williams

CHICAGO (CBS) — Sailor, Record-setter. Chicagoan.

Bill Pinkney was the first African American to sail around the world alone.

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That’s the kind of feat that gets you an honorary street name in your hometown. That’s exactly what Pinkney got.

But his street sign is missing.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams went looking for it. It’s a sign that honored a man who inspired a generation with his courage and adventurous spirit.

Thirty years ago Bill Pinkney was alone at sea and thousands of school children followed his every nautical mile.

His journey ended with cheers and a place in the record books: Pinkney was the first African American to sail around the world — solo.

“Life, you have to write that yourself,” he said.

Chicago’s own sea captain, from the city’s South Side, saw his slice of immortality stamped with an honorary street sign on Monroe near Lake Shore Drive.

“I was surprised and happy because I’ve been seeing the signs over the years and I’m saying ‘wow that’s pretty good,” Pinkney said.

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But two years ago the sign vanished and has not been replaced.

“Well, knowing how things go: Here today, gone tomorrow. That’s the way it is,” he said.

The captain’s former wife, Ina Pinkney, with whom he’s remained close, wants an explanation.

“Bill was and is a remarkable human being. And he spent all of his time when he came home talking to children about following a dream. And I think his name needs to part of the history of Chicago for all that he did,” she said.

We called the city’s transportation department, which installs the honorary signs. A spokeswoman said they don’t have Pinkney’s sign, but added they’ll try to replace it.

“I wanted that to be his legacy that it was out there for everyone to see — Captain William Pinkney Way.”

Now at 85 awaiting the sign replacement, Captain William Pinkney marvels at the swift passage of time since he circled the globe. And wrote books describing it.

“I think of the kids who were reading my book in the first grade when I finished and some of them have kids of their own at this point. It’s frightening.”

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Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office (42nd) told us the alderman has requested that a replacement sign be put up where it will soon be Captain William Pinkney Way once more.