Compiled by Adam Harrington, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS/AP) From the arts and sports to politics and activism, 2021 saw the loss of some notable Chicagoans who helped define the culture of the city for generations.READ MORE: Chicago First Alert Weather: Clearing Skies, Wind Chills Bring Sub-Zero Feels-Like Temps
Here is a look at 25 notable Chicagoans who passed away this year.
Virgil Abloh: Designer
Acclaimed fashion designer Virgil Abloh died on Nov. 28 at the age of 41, following a battle with cancer. Abloh was the first Black man named an artistic director at Louis Vuitton.
The son of immigrant parents from Ghana, Abloh was born and raised in Rockford. He graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago with a master’s degree in architecture. It was his collaborations with Chicago rapper Kanye West that skyrocketed him to fame.
“I hope that through my narrative, people see that in themselves that anything is achievable, and different genres are just made to be jumped over,” Abloh once said.
Just months before his death, Abloh became the most powerful Black executive at one of the world’s most powerful luxury brands when his own label, Off-White, was acquitted by Louis Vuitton’s parent company.
Abloh was best known for his menswear, but his work stretched into furniture and vehicle design as well. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago even held an exhibit of his work back in 2019.
Timuel Black: Author, Historian, Civil Rights Activist
Timuel Black, a prominent civil rights activist, author, and historian, died on Oct. 13. He was 102 years old.
Few people knew more about Chicago’s Black history than Dr. Black.
Dr. Black moved to Bronzeville in 1919 and was one of the first graduates of DuSable High School.He served in the military during World War II, participating in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, and witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust when he visited the Buchenwald concentration camp after it was liberated.
He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, helped get the late Mayor Harold Washington elected in 1983, wrote books, and counseled many.
State Street between 49th and 50th streets carries the honorary name Dr. Timuel Black Street. Dr. Black is also the first recipient of the city of Chicago’s Champion of Freedom award, and was the first honoree inducted into the Illinois Black Hall of Fame at Governors State University this past March.
Jerome Butler: Architect
Former Chicago city architect, Public Works Commissioner, and Aviation Commissioner Jerome R. Butler died Dec. 2 at the age of 93.
Butler joined Chicago city government in 1960, and was appointed as city architect by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1967. As city architect, Butler helped lead the restoration of the auditorium at the east end of Navy Pier in the 1970s.
According to the book “Navy Pier: A Chicago Landmark” by Douglas Bukowski, the auditorium at Navy Pier was in disrepair and was being subjected to the elements of the lakefront by the early 1970s. The city restoration project led by Butler began in 1974 and involved a full restoration of the auditorium, a promenade on the north side of the pier, and a solar energy project to heat the buildings on the pier’s east end, the book said.
Butler went on to be appointed as Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Works in 1979 as Mayor Jane Byrne took over, and remained in that position after Mayor Harold Washington took the reins four years later, according to the Tribune. Butler was removed from the Public Works position in 1985, but went on to serve a short term as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation under Mayor Washington.
In the 1990s, Butler also served as deputy general manager of Navy Pier – overseeing its further transformation into the top-level tourist attraction we know today, according to published reports.
Rennie Davis: Political Activist
Rennie Davis was born in Michigan, raised in Virginia, and lived most of his adult life in Colorado, but he is perhaps best known for his antiwar activist work in Chicago – and in particular as one of the “Chicago Seven” defendants who was tried for organizing an anti-Vietnam War protest outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Thousands clashed with police in a bloody confrontation that horrified a nation watching live on television.
Davis died of lymphoma on Feb. 2 at his home in Berthoud, Colorado, at the age of 80.
A longtime peace activist, Davis was national director of the community organizing program for the anti-war Students for a Democratic Society and was a protest coordinator for the Chicago convention.
Some 3,000 anti-war demonstrators clashed with police and Illinois National Guardsmen on Aug. 28, 1968, near the convention. Police clubbed demonstrators and carried out mass arrests. Davis himself was seriously injured and taken to a hospital. An investigative commission later described the clash as a “police riot.”
Federal prosecutors charged eight organizers of the protests – Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, Bobby Seale, Lee Weiner, John Froines, and David Dellinger – with crossing state lines to incite a riot. Seale’s case was severed and declared a mistrial, and the Chicago Eight became the Chicago Seven.
Davis, Hayden, Rubin, Hoffman, and Dellinger were convicted of conspiracy to incite a riot during the “Chicago Seven” trial in 1969 and 1970. A federal appeals court overturned the convictions, citing errors by U.S. District Judge Julius Hoffman.
As noted by 5280 Magazine, Davis also struck up a friendship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who were also heavily involved in activism against the Vietnam War. Their partnership led to the John Sinclair Freedom Rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1971 – a call for the release of the poet John Sinclair after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving two joins to an undercover police officer.
Davis later moved to Colorado, where he studied and taught spirituality and entered the business world, selling life insurance and running a think tank that developed technologies for the environment. He became a venture capitalist and a lecturer on meditation and self-awareness, according to his wife, Kirsten Liegmann.
Liegmann said Davis pursued a spiritual path designed to create awareness of the planet even as he was dispensing business advice as a venture capitalist.
Tony Esposito: Blackhawks Hockey Legend
Chicago Blackhawks icon Tony Esposito died Aug. 10 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 78.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, Esposito was a goaltender for the Blackhawks from 1969 until 1984.
“Tony was one of the most important and popular figures in the history of the franchise as we near its 100th anniversary,” Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement at the time of Esposito’s passing. “Four generations of our family—my grandfather Arthur, my father Bill, my son Danny and I—were blessed by his work ethic as a Hall of Fame goalie, but more importantly, by his mere presence and spirit.
As Wirtz noted, the Blackhawks drafted Esposito from the Montreal Canadiens on June 15, 1969. The Blackhawks had finished in last place in the East Division the season before, but after Esposito took over as the number one goalie, the Blackhawks leapt to first place in his first season with 15 shutouts – in what remains a modern record.
Esposito was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.
Timm Etters: Muralist
Timmothy Etters, a longtime muralist whose work adorns many Chicago areas schools, died of COVID-19 on Sept. 4 at the age of 52.
The Elgin native painted more than 300 murals.
A cancer survivor, Etters was also color blind. According to his website biography, he knew he wanted to be an artist as a young boy.
Graffiti in particular became an outlet for Etters’ creative talents, beginning with drawings on notebooks and folders in school as a teenager, according to his website biography. He went on to paint the walls of his family’s basement, where his hip-hop group, The CREW Masters, practiced, his website said.
Etters went on to design murals for bridges, underpasses, and other outdoor surfaces – initially in the dark of night without permission. Etters ended up being brought into a local police station for painting murals illegally – but one officer was impressed with one of Etters’ murals that honored Vietnam veterans, and proposed that Etters’ penalty for the illegal artwork would be community service in the form of painting a mural in the Cary Grove school cafeteria, his website reports.
More than 314 of Etters’ murals can be found in more than 250 public and private schools in the Chicago area, according to his website.
His wife, Vicki Etters, told the Chicago Tribune he made art a “lifetime career” and the reason was because he loved people.
Lester Fisher: Lincoln Park Zoo Director
Dr. Lester Fisher, who spent 30 years as director of the Lincoln Park Zoo and became locally famous in that role, died Dec. 22. He was 100.
Fisher joined the Lincoln Park Zoo in 1947 as the zoo’s first veterinarian. He became director of the zoo in 1962, and remained in that role until 1992.
As director, the zoo said, “Dr. Fisher transformed Lincoln Park Zoo into the state-of-the-art institution it is today—improving animal buildings and habitats and strengthening education and conservation initiatives.”
Dr. Fisher had studied gorillas in Africa. In 1976, the Lincoln Park Zoo opened the Lester E. Fisher Great Ape house, where the zoo was able to focus in on its work with western lowland gorillas, the zoo said. The great ape house with Fisher’s name was supplanted by the Regenstein Center for African Apes, and remains state-of-the-art and world-renowned thanks to Fisher’s efforts, the zoo said.
The Regenstein Center for African Apes now houses the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, where scientists conduct research both at the zoo and in the field in the Republic of Congo, the zoo said.
Fisher was also behind the Farm-in-the-Zoo, the first farm with domesticated animals in an American zoo, in an effort to teach an urban population about agriculture, the zoo said.
Fisher focused on transforming the zoo into a place for education and conservation, and brought on experts in service of that mission – including Kevin Bell, who has served as the president and chief executive officer of the Lincoln Park Zoo for 26 years, the zoo said.
Fritzie Fritzshall: Holocaust Survivor And Activist
Fritzie Fritzshall survived Auschwitz, and made it her life’s mission to tell her story so the world would never forget the horrors of the Holocaust.
Fritzshall, president of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, died June 19. She was 91 years old.
When Fritzshall was a young teenage girl, the Nazis occupied her hometown of Klucharky, Czechoslovakia and deported her along with her mothers and two brothers to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, the museum points out. Her mother and two brothers were murdered, along with other family members.
“I am cold. I am hungry and I see the gas chambers, the families being torn apart,” Fritzshall told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole in a January 2020 interview..
She pretended to be older than she was to survive. A man told her to lie and exaggerate her age.
“He saved my life. He knew that the children under 15 would go to the gas chambers,” Fritzshall said.
She saw her mother pulled from a line and sent to the gas chambers. But some family remained.
Fritzshall endured a torturous year in Auschwitz and a related labor camp, where she did slave labor in a factory, the museum recalled. She often explained she survived the death camp thanks to the kindness of others who shared their scant food and water with her.
Fritzshall was liberated at last by the Soviet Army after escaping into a forest during a death march, the museum recalled. She came to Skokie in 1946 after the war and joined her father – who had come to America before the Holocaust to provide money for his family abroad and who worked for Vienna Beef, the museum recalled.
Fritzshall went on to marry a U.S. veteran of World War II who had been a prisoner of war in the Pacific, and worked as a hairdresser, the museum recalled. She also became an avid Cubs fan.
She was inspired to get involved in activism in the late 1970s, when neo-Nazis threatened to march in Skokie, the museum recalled. The horror prompted a group of Holocaust survivors to found the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois in 1981.
Fritzshall and other Holocaust survivors also persuaded Illinois Gov. James Thompson in 1990 to sign a Holocaust Education Mandate into law for all public elementary and high schools, the museum recalled. Illinois was the first state to do so.
In 2009, the Chicagoland survivors’ realized a long-planned vision of a world-class educational endeavor as the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center opened in Skokie. Fritzshall served as its president beginning in 2010.
Bernie Hansen: Longtime Chicago Alderman
Former Chicago Ald. Bernard Hansen died July 18 at the age of 76. Hansen served as alderman of the 44th Ward – which covers a large part of the Lakeview community area – from 1983 until 2002.
He was elected upon the retirement of incumbent John Merlo in the same election that brought Harold Washington to the Mayor’s office. Hansen initially allied with the opposition bloc of 29 aldermen led by Ed Vrdolyak, but went on to endorse Mayor Washington for reelection in 1987.
In his time as alderman with Washington, Eugene Sawyer, and finally Richard M. Daley in the Mayor’s office, Hansen became known in particular as an advocate for environmental concerns and recycling. In 1993, as noted by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the City Council approved an ordinance sponsored by Hansen and Ald. Ed Burke (14th) to guarantee recycling opportunities to all residents and businesses.
Hansen also sponsored city ordinances to fund private-sector recycling, and to extend a moratorium on landfills in Chicago, the Fishery Commission noted.
Hansen was also known for his advocacy for human rights and LGBTQ rights. He was a co-sponsor along with Ald. Cliff Kelley of the Human Rights Ordinance to protect gay, lesbian, and disabled people from discrimination. The ordinance was approved in 1988.
Hansen was further known as a champion for advocacy for those with HIV/AIDS, as he talked about in the Windy City Times in 2002.
Jerry Harkness: Loyola Ramblers Basketball Star
Jerry Harkness, the famed Loyola Ramblers captain and two-time All-American who lead the team to its 1963 championship, died Aug. 24 at the age of 81.
According to Loyola, Harkness currently ranks sixth in program history with 1,749 points and in the Ramblers’ national championship season in 1962-63, provided 21.4 points per game and shot 50.4 percent (244-for-484) from the floor as high-scoring Loyola posted a 29-2 overall record.
Harkness is also remembered in the legendary “Game of Change.” It’s when Loyola faced Mississippi State in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Harkness was one of four Black starters on Loyola’s team. At the time, state laws banned Mississippi State from playing integrated teams, Loyola snuck out of town to play the game. Before the game Harkness and Mississippi State captain Joe Dan Gold shook hands at center court and that image would become iconic.
Harkness was drafted by the New York Knicks in the second round of the 1963 NBA Draft. He played one season there before playing two years with the Indiana Pacers in the what was then the ABA. According to Loyola “his buzzer-beating, 92-foot shot during the 1967-68 season lifted the Pacers to a victory and to this day it remains the longest shot ever made in a professional basketball game in the United States.”
After his basketball career, Harkness went on to a successful career in business and broadcasting. He was also the first African-American salesman for Quaker Oats, Harkness also worked for the United Way of Greater Indianapolis and ran an athletic shoe franchise. He also had a stint as a sportscaster for WLWI in Indianapolis.
Jimmy Hayes: Blackhawks Hockey Player
Former Blackhawks right wing Jimmy Hayes died in Aug. 23 at the age of 31 at his home in the Boston suburbs. Hayes won a national hockey championship at Boston College and played seven seasons in the NHL.
Hayes, a 6-foot-5 right wing, was drafted in the second round (60th overall) in 2008 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Two years later, he helped Boston College to its second straight national title, totaling 13 goals and 22 assists in 42 games as a sophomore.
He made his NHL debut in December 2011 after a trade to the Blackhawks.
“His warm personality made an immediate impact in the locker room and with our fans,” the Blackhawks said in a statement. “We’re proud of the memories he made in Chicago.”
Jimmy Hayes played 334 games in the NHL and had 54 goals and 55 assists. He also played for the Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils. He last played professionally in 2019 and had been a cohost of a podcast called “Missin Curfew.”
Roland Hemond: Longtime White Sox General Manager
Longtime White Sox executive Roland Hemond, who won three Executive of the Year awards, died Dec. 12 at the age of 92.
Hemond was the General Manager for the White Sox from 1970-85 and served in the same role for the Baltimore Orioles from 1988-95. He won the Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year award in 1972, and then again in 1983 when the White Sox won the AL West.
Hemond is also considered the architect of the Arizona Fall League, and he helped found the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation to provide assistance to longtime scouts needing special support. In 2011, he received the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award, given by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors to a person whose efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society.
A Rhode Island native, Hemond was the assistant scouting director for the Milwaukee Braves during the 1950s. Hemond helped assemble the Milwaukee team that won the World Series in 1957, and he became scouting director for the Los Angeles Angels when they began playing in 1961.
He joined the White Sox in 1970.
“I believe it’s shared by everyone in the baseball world, starting with his time with the Milwaukee Braves, that Roland Hemond touched and influenced more people than any other person in a really positive way,” said White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who also managed the White Sox during Hemond’s tenure as GM and was at the helm for that 1983 AL West championship. “For years and years, he’s been the most beloved figure in the game. He treated everyone with kindness and respect and they returned it.”
In a 1975 stunt at the winter meetings, Hemond and White Sox owner Bill Veeck set up a table in the lobby of a Florida hotel with an “Open for Business Anytime” sign. They made four trades in an hour.
Veeck had the White Sox’ publicity director call periodically, and Hemond would pretend he was answering calls from other teams.
“People would look around laughing, saying, Jesus, this looks like it’s working ’cause they’re getting phone calls,” Hemond recalled decades later. “I don’t think you could re-enact it today.”
Hemond was senior executive vice president of baseball operations for the Diamondbacks from 1996-2000. Then he went back to the White Sox as an adviser before returning to the Diamondbacks as a special assistant from 2007-20.
Helmut Jahn: Architect
Architectural titan Helmut Jahn died May 8 at the age of 81, after he was struck by two vehicles while riding his bicycle in the Kane County suburb of Campton Hills.
As CBS 2’s Marissa Parra reported at the time, Jahn was a man who believed in transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary. And love it or hate it, his most widely talked-about piece – the James R. Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St. – was unlike anything we’d ever seen when it was unveiled. After the State of Illinois announced plans to sell the building and threats that it might be demolished, Gov. JB Pritzker announced in December that state chosen a proposal from a developer who would preserve the Thompson Center as an office building.
Jahn’s first major project in Chicago for which he was the principal architect was the Xerox Center, now known by its address of 55 W. Monroe St. The building was completed in 1980.
As described by Architect Magazine: “The 45-story office tower has an elegant form, with a rounded corner that culminates in a curving mechanical penthouse and a two-story street front that undulates inward to create a covered space at the building’s two entrances. A flush curtainwall echoes the tower’s simple form. Large, white, aluminum-and-glass panels extend from the sidewalk to the parapet, with half-height glazing on three sides and full-height windows facing the plaza across the street.”
Jahn also designed the United Airlines Terminal One at O’Hare International Airport, completed between 1985 and 1988. The terminal is known in particular for its tunnel that connects two concourses, where Michael Hayden’s kinetic neon light sculpture “Sky’s the Limit” is on display overhead to the accompaniment of modern versions of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” – the United Airlines theme music since the 1980s.
In Chicago, Jahn also designed the glass-curtained 1 S. Wacker Dr. building (1982), the O’Hare Blue Line Terminal (1984), the Accenture Tower (formerly the Citigroup Center) that rises above the Ogilvie Transportation Center at 500 W. Madison St. (1987), the 120 N. LaSalle St. building across from City Hall (1992), the high-rise condo tower at 600 N. Fairbanks Ct. in Streeterville (2007), and the glass-domed Joe and Rika Mansueto Library next to the Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago (2011).
Another residential high-rise designed by Jahn is now under construction at 1000 S. Michigan Ave. in the South Loop.
Jahn was born in 1940 near Nuremberg, Germany. He came to Chicago in 1966 to study under the renowned architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
He worked with architect Gene Summers to design the McCormick Place Lakeside Center, which was constructed between 1968 and 1971 to replace the original McCormick Place after that building was destroyed in a 1967 fire.
Beyond Chicago, Jahn also designed numerous other iconic structures around the country and the world, including the Liberty Place complex in Philadelphia, the 50 West St. condo tower in Lower Manhattan in New York City, and the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
Paul Johnson: House Music DJ And ProducerREAD MORE: Neighbors Help Each Other Dig Out, Plows Get To Work On Side Streets After Lake Effect Snowstorm
Renowned Chicago house music DJ and producer Paul Johnson died Aug. 4 after a battle with COVID-19. He was 50 years old.
As noted by AllMusic.com, Johnson grew up with Chicago’s flourishing house music scene and pioneers such as Frankie Knuckles, Ron Hardy, and Farley Jackmeister Funk. Johnson began DJ’ing himself in 1985, and producing his own tracks in 1990, AllMusic.com reported.
Johnson produced tracks for Chicago’s best-known house music labels, and achieved his greatest prominence with the hit “Get Get Down,” released in 1999.
Johnson also founded the Dust Traxx label, AllMusic.com noted.
Johnson also suffered hardships throughout his life. He was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot in 1987 and had to use a wheelchair afterward, had to have his left leg amputated in 2003, and lost his right leg in an accident in 2010, according to multiple published reports.
In a video posted to Facebook with the announcement of his passing, Johnson is seen saying he had always been guided by perseverance.
“Ever since I was young, I always had this inside me – just go. Go, go, get out, get out – faster. So like I never let anything hold me back. I never let any type of experiences let me down or put me down. I’ve always had my own mind and thought like that,” Johnson says in the video. “I knew once everything I wanted to do, nobody else was in my brain, so I knew it couldn’t stop me. Even this disability couldn’t stop me. Nothing could. I just had that in me. I still have that drive in me right now. It’s a perseverant thing. I think I was born with it. I’m sure I was born with it.”
Dick Kay: Political Reporter
Longtime Chicago political journalist Dick Kay died May 13 at the age of 84.
Kay – born Richard Snodgrass – spent 38 years at NBC 5. As described by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest Chapter, Kay was “a no-nonsense, incisive inquisitor who had one of the longest political reporting careers in Chicago.
“Mr. Kay had a stentorian voice that sliced through the noise at crime scenes and news conferences like a bass baritone in an opera. It seemed to command answers, even from those who might have preferred to slink away,” NATAS Chicago said.
Kay joined NBC 5 as a writer in 1968, and ended up in the field for the chaotic Democratic National Convention that year. He began appearing on air two years later and soon became the station’s political editor.
After retiring from NBC 5 in 2006, Kay began hosting “Dick Kay: Back on the Beat” on WCPT-AM radio.
Kay grew up in Dellrose, Tennessee and described himself as a “country boy” born in a log cabin, NATAS Chicago recalled. He dropped out of school at 14 to earn money digging ditches, picking cotton, and washing dishes, and went on to join the Navy and then graduate from Bradley University in Peoria.
Kay began his broadcasting career at a radio station in Pekin, and moved on to a job in Peoria. He then became news director at WFRV-TV in Green Bay, and landed at NBC 5 afterward, NATAS Chicago recalled.
Kay, nicknamed “Doogie,” also loved sailing and playing the harmonica, and also enjoyed country music and cigars, NATAS Chicago recalled.
Karen Lewis: Chicago Teachers Union President
Former Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis died Feb. 7 at the age of 67.
Lewis was not afraid of a fight. In 2012, Lewis led a Chicago teachers strike against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It was the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years.
She was elected to head the 30,000-member CTU in 2010. She spent her years in public office working to improve public schools and help teachers while rallying against charter schools.
Lewis became a chemistry teacher after leaving medical school. She taught at three Chicago high schools, including Lane Tech, where she also served on the local school council. That led to her run for CTU president and ultimately talk of challenging Emanuel in the 2015 election.
At least one poll had Lewis beating Emanuel, but in October 2014 she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. She suffered a stroke in the same area of the brain where she had a tumor removed in 2014.
After months of treatment, she resumed her role as president and secured a third term as contract talks heated up and strike talks resurfaced. At the last hour in October 2016, the second walkout under her leadership was averted.
She continued her public school crusade fighting furloughs and budget cuts.
A stroke in October 2017 sidelined Lewis again. In 2018, Lewis retired as the union’s president. But for many the outspoken, albeit controversial leader had already secured her spot in Chicago history.
Allison Payne: News Anchor
Chicago television icon Allison Payne died Sept. 1 at the age of 57. The longtime news anchor spent 21 years at WGN-TV Channel 9 before retiring in 2011.
Payne was born in Richmond, Virginia and grew up in Detroit, according to the Chicago Tribune. She worked at stations in Ohio and Michigan before joining WGN in 1990 at the age of 25, the newspaper reported.
Payne co-anchored WGN’s 9 p.m. weekday newscast and covered numerous high-profile stories. She was the winner of nine local Emmy Awards, the Tribune reported.
WGN said Payne returned home to Detroit after leaving WGN in 2011, following a series of health issues.
Harry Mark Petrakis: Author
Novelist and short story author Harry Mark Petrakis died Feb. 2 at the age of 97.
Petrakis’ website notes that he wrote 21 novels, collections of short stories, essays, and autobiographies. His best-known work was the 1966 novel “A Dream of Kings” – which was set in Chicago and which was made into a movie three years later starring Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas.
Petrakis was born in St. Louis in 1923 to Greek immigrant parents. Suffering from tuberculosis and bedridden for two years as a boy, he passed his time reading, according to his website.
Petrakis began writing short stories in the late 1940s, according to his website. The center of action that he captured was Greektown along Halsted Street.
“Chicago remains my turf. More and more over the years Halsted Street has been my patch of ground,” Petrakis is quoted on his site. “But I blend the real Halsted Street with the mythical Halsted Street. I populate it with many shops that don’t exist and I populate the neighborhood with many more Greeks of various occupations than really live there.”
Petrakis’ first short story, “Pericles on 31st Street,” was published by the Atlantic Monthly in 1955. Little Brown published his first novel, an immigrant story called “Lion at My Heart,” four years later, his website noted.
His works focused on the struggles of Greek immigrants searching for the American dream.
“He knew the gangsters, the gamblers, he himself being addicted for a while, and the lonely, burnt out old men. He knew the Greek restaurants, the Greek sweet shops, the Greek floral shops,” his website says. “His realism sometimes bothered other Greeks who felt he was often defining an unflattering Greek-American portrait.”
Petrakis has won the O. Henry Award for exceptional short story writers, and the Carl Sandburg Award from the Chicago Public Library.
Anthony Porter: Exonerated Former Death Row Inmate
Anthony Porter, who spent more than 15 years on death row before his exoneration helped bring an end to the death penalty in Illinois, died July 5 at age 66.
Porter was convicted in the 1982 murders of Marilyn Green and Jerry Hillard, but was exonerated and released from prison after another man, Alstory Simon, confessed to the shootings during an investigation of the murders by a team of journalism students from Northwestern University. Simon was later convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison.
Porter had once been only two days away from execution before his attorneys won him a stay after raising questions about his mental competence. Meanwhile, the state’s only witness implicating Porter in the crime recanted his story.
As CBS 2 reported at the time in February 1999, the mother of one of the victims also said she never believed Porter was the killer and said another man and his wife were responsible.
A team of journalism students at Northwestern and their professor later took up Porter’s case, and got Simon’s confession. Porter was exonerated in 1999.
But Simon’s attorneys later accused the Northwestern team of coercing him. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office re-examined Simon’s conviction in 2013 after he recanted his confession. Simon alleged he was coerced into making it by a private investigator, working with the journalism students, who he says promised him he would get an early release and a share of the profits from book and movie deals.
In 2014, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez noted the investigation of the case was corrupted and her office could no longer maintain the legitimacy of Simon’s conviction. Alvarez would not say if she believed Simon was innocent. Simon was released from prison in October 2014.
Porter’s case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to halt all executions in Illinois. Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in 2003 and cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Illinois, led by Gov. Pat Quinn, abolished the death penalty in 2011.
Hugo Sonnenschein: Former University Of Chicago President
Former University of Chicago President Hugo Sonnenschein died July 15 at the age of 80.
Sonnenschein served as the 11th president of the University of Chicago from 1993 to 2000, and was a member of the university community for nearly 30 years – most recently serving as the Charles L. Hutchinson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in the Kenneth C. Griffin School of Economics.
In announcing Sonnenschein’s death, the university credited him with “visionary leadership during a transformational period for the university,” noting that he helped strengthen the recruitment of students and faculty and made strides in fundraising.
But Sonnenschein’s moves as university president also drew sharp controversy from students and faculty at the time – particularly an expansion of the college and changes to the common core curriculum in which college course requirements were reduced.
Critics at the time expressed concern that changes to the undergraduate program at the U of C would weaken its academic intensity and do away with smaller discussion-based classes. In one heated town-hall meeting in February 1999, students confronted Sonnenschein with often-angry questions – with some claiming U of C education was being commodified and some also worrying that the expanded college might come at the expense of graduate programs, as the Chicago Weekly News student newspaper reported at the time.
Twenty-two years later, the U of C noted that the college expansion was controversial at the time, but said it proved to be “a critical component of the evolution of the College and its capacity to reinforce and expand upon the enduring values and approach to education of the College and the University.”
The university also noted that Sonnenschein began the first U of C master-planning process in 30 years, which led to the construction of the Gerald Ratner Athletic Center, the Harper Center at the Booth School of Business, and the Max Palevsky Residential Commons.
Sonnenschein received a Ph.D. in economics from Purdue University in 1964, and served on the economics faculties of the University of Minnesota, the University of Massachusetts, Northwestern University, and Princeton University. He a faculty member and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania from 1998 to 1991, and the provost of Princeton University from 1991 to 1993.
Adlai Stevenson III: Former U.S. Senator
Former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois died Sept. 6. He was 90.
Stevenson was the great grandson of former Vice President Adlai Stevenson. His father, Adlai Stevenson II, was a former Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate.
When running for the Senate, where he was first elected in 1970 to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. Everett Dirksen’s term, Stevenson asked then-Mayor Richard J. Daley for advice.
“My advice to you is don’t change your name,” Daley told him, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Stevenson was reelected in 1974, but decided not to run again in 1980. He stepped aside in January 1981 for fellow Democrat Alan Dixon, who won the November election.
Stevenson also ran for governor of Illinois twice, losing his 1982 run by just 5,074 votes to Republican Gov. Jim Thompson. It is the closest Illinois election for governor in modern state history.
Before his health declined, Stevenson kept active organizing presentations and speakers for the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy in Libertyville, Illinois. He also worked on the family farm in Hanover, Illinois, raising cattle, growing corn and hay for their feed, and chopping wood.
Noel Swerdlow: Professor And Expert On History Of Science
Noel Swerdlow, who served more than 40 years as a professor at the University of Chicago and was known as one of the foremost experts on the history of science, died July 24 at the age of 79.
In an article posted by its news office, the U of C noted that Swerdlow was the world’s top expert on ancient astronomer Ptolemy and 16th-cenutry astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. Swerdlow was renowned for his approach to the studies of ancient scientists – which affirmed that modern scholars ought to be able to understand the mathematics used by the ancients, the U of C said.
Swerdlow’s translations of Copernicus and other astronomers from ancient times to the Renaissance, are still read worldwide, the U of C said.
Swerdlow grew up in Los Angeles, the U of C noted. He got his bachelor’s degree in history in 1964 from UCLA and his Ph.D. in medieval studies in 1968 from Yale University – first planning to focus on medieval music, but later moving to a focus on the history of science, the U of C said.
Swerdlow came to the U of C in 1968 as an assistant professor in the History Department after getting his Ph.D., and moved in 1982 to the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, where he remained until he retired in 2010, the university said.
Among Swerdlow’s best-known works are a 1973 translation and exploration of Copernicus’ early work, “The Commentariolus,” and the 1984 work, “Mathematical Astronomy in Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus” – which Swerdlow wrote in two volumes with Otto Neugebauer on mathematics in Copernicus’ works, the U of C said. The latter work won Swerdlow and Neugebauer the Pfizer Prize, the highest award from the History of Science Society, the U of C said.
Swerdlow also worked with renowned astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar – who is known for his work on black holes. The two wrote several articles about ancient astronomers together, the U of C said.
The university also noted Swerdlow’s passion in the classroom. Many undergrad alums might remember Swerdlow for the course “Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization” – an exploration of the origins and development of science in the Western world.
Swerdlow moved to California after retiring and worked as a visiting associate professor in history at Caltech until 2018.
Jim Tilmon: Meteorologist, Aviator
Jim Tilmon – one of the first Black pilots for American Airlines and an award-winning meteorologist who spent some of his career at CBS 2 – died Jan. 16 at the age of 86.
Tilmon’s dream to fly began as a boy in Oklahoma, walking with his father.
“I saw an airplane for the first time, didn’t know what it was, asked him what it was all about. He said it was an airplane and pilots flew it, and I asked, ‘Daddy, can I be a pilot?’” Tilmon said in a WTTW interview.
Indeed Tilmon did become a pilot, but there were obstacles. He heard this from one flight instructor:
“You lack the intelligence and the aptitude — and something else he used — to be modern jet pilot,” Tilmon said.
Tilmon proved that flight instructor dead wrong; first flying aircraft in the military, then in the 1960s he became one of first Black pilots for American Airlines. While he was still flying, he began a second career as a television talk show host and weatherman. He was simply gifted.
He hosted the show “Our People” – a series by, about, and for Black Chicagoans – on WTTW-Channel 11 beginning in 1968. He then spent 22 years at NBC 5 – as a weatherman and aviation and science reporter. Tilmon later moved to Arizona, but returned to Chicago and joined us CBS 2 in 2002 – as a meteorologist on our daily newscasts for a few years, and appearing as an aviation expert for many years afterward. Versatility was a calling card. After aviation disasters, Jim’s expertise was invaluable.
So backing up a bit, what did Jim Tilmon’s father tell him all those years ago, back when he gazed at the plane in the sky and said he too wanted to fly?
“’You’re either going to do this, because you believe, and want it, and because you’re willing to pay the price; or it’s not going to get done,” Tilmon said. “And he was right. I still to this day carry that kind of thinking.”
Bob Wallace: CBS 2 Anchor, Reporter, Adventurer
Bob Wallace, of course, was one of our own – an Emmy Award-winning reporter whose work brought joy to generations of Chicagoans. He died April 28 at the age of 80, after contracting COVID-19.
From 1970 until 1991, Wallace informed and entertained CBS 2 News audiences as he brought them along on his adventures — and he could tell a story unlike anyone else. His feature reports took him all around Chicago and well beyond — from amid the crowds at street festivals to aboard the decks of speedboats, and from roller coasters at Six Flags Great America to the middle of a rafter of turkeys at the Ho-Ka farm each year ahead of Thanksgiving. And that barely scratches the surface.
Wallace beat the drum with the Shannon Rovers Irish Pipe Band on St. Patrick’s Day, sang along with Fats Domino at the piano, climbed into scary-looking rotating circus contraptions, and at one point even snipped off anchorman Lester Holt’s necktie during coverage of the Taste of Chicago.
And as he pointed out in his tagline at the end of each report, he did it all for Channel 2 News.
As Wallace wrote in a mini-autobiography for the Chicago Emmys, he came to Chicago in May 1970 to work as a reporter and weekend anchor at CBS 2.
Wallace noted that after graduating from Boston University and prior to arriving at CBS 2, he was first on the air at several radio stations in Massachusetts – and then at WPRO radio in Providence, Rhode Island. Soon afterward, he was also reporting the news on CBS affiliate WPRO-TV in Providence.
Wallace wrote that he moved on to stations in Boston, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia before joining CBS 2 Chicago. Over his nearly 22 years working from our old building at 630 N. McClurg Ct., he soon transitioned from hard news reporting and the anchor desk to his renowned feature reports.
In the late 1970s, Wallace served as the anchorman for a daily news report at the top of CBS 2’s “Noonbreak” show, which was coupled with a talk show segment hosted by the late Lee Phillip. But Wallace didn’t limit himself to reading the headlines on “Noonbreak” either; in a 1978 segment, we saw him showing off his moves as he was learning how to disco dance.
Wallace also co-hosted CBS 2’s Emmy Award-winning Sunday evening news magazine program “Two on Two” alongside Harry Porterfield, Susan Anderson, Don Craig, and Robin Robinson. The program took Wallace and his co-hosts around Chicagoland and well beyond – from backstage at the Lyric Opera to the Country Music Fan Fair in Nashville, and sometimes even overseas.
On the old “First Edition” CBS 2 afternoon news show in the late 1980s, Wallace appeared for daily “Where’s Wallace?” live shots – which he called “probably the most fun my intrepid camera crews and I had.”
“We managed to ‘go live’ from atop the Hancock building antenna, scudded over the waves while clinging to the deck of a racing sailboat on Lake Michigan, and dangled from a water tower high above the ground while learning rescue techniques with first responders. We did this all with relatively primitive equipment and technology compared with the highly portable gadgets available today,” Wallace wrote. “Along the way, I was fortunate enough to win a handful of Emmys for doing what I loved.”
After moving on from CBS 2, Wallace did some freelance work, established a small video production company, and hosted the City of Chicago public information show “Chicago Works,” produced by Mayor Richard M. Daley’s press office. He also came back to visit us at CBS 2 from time to time – in 2008, he joined our morning team on the set for our last weekday morning newscast at the McClurg Court building.
Dori Wilson: Executive, Model, Publicist
Business executive, model, and prominent publicist Dori Wilson died Feb. 1 at the age of 77.
For decades, Wilson was a trailblazing African-American woman representing a host of companies, including Carson Pirie Scott, Marshall Field’s, and the Chicago Public Schools.
She also served on the boards of The Harris Theater, the Chicago Urban League, and Brookfield Zoo.
In a statement shortly after Wilson’s passing, Dori Wilson Public Relations said:
“Dori Wilson was an authentic trailblazer, pioneer and entrepreneur. Dori’s public relations firm was widely respected nationwide and served a broad cross section of iconic businesses and community minded organizations. She raised the bar among those serving public good. As a business owner, she brought boundless energy, wicked humor, friendship and a deep knowledge of her craft as exemplified by her many awards and recognitions. She was a vocal advocate of Chicago. Our City has lost a real legend and civic champion.”
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)