The 6TH Ward Remembers The Honorable Eugene Sawyer
Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of the passing of the 44th mayor of Chicago and former 6th Ward Alderman Eugene Sawyer. His son, Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer took time to reflect on the legacy of the former Mayor.
“My dad taught me a great deal about public service and what a privilege it is to serve your community with honor and dignity.” Alderman Sawyer said, “I caught the political bug from my dad, and if it was not for all the time I spent with him growing up, I wouldn’t be in this office today. I continue to work to meet the high standards he set as a man and I am proud to have the opportunity to live up to some of the real accomplishments that my father made from his time in government. “
Here is a glimpse into the great life of the Honorable Eugene Sawyer…
Born in Greensboro, Alabama on September 3, 1934, Eugene Sawyer was proud of his Alabama roots. Throughout his early years, he continuously demonstrated outstanding leadership skills. Whether as quarterback of the football team, senior class president and salutatorian of his high school, or as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated helping Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the Montgomery Bus boycott, Eugene Sawyer was one of the best and brightest.
In 1957, he moved to Chicago, where he soon was hired as an industrial waste coordinator for the City's Department of Water and Sewers. He also joined the 6th Ward Democratic Organization, where his talent and diligence led to expanded duties and responsibilities. He was first elected alderman of Chicago's 6th Ward in 1971, and served with honor and distinction in that office under four different mayors for a total of 17 years.
While serving as alderman, he was the first African-American elected official to endorse Harold Washington's candidacy for mayor, and he became president pro tempore of the City Council and chairman of the City Council Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics under Mayor Washington.
Alderman Sawyer became the Mayor of the City of Chicago after the sudden death of Mayor Harold Washington. This was a heavily tumultuous time for the city and Mayor Sawyer was a voice of calm and reason in the difficult times. Eugene Sawyer was the second African American to serve as the mayor of Chicago, served from December of 1987 until May of 1989.
During his time in office, Mayor Sawyer managed to bring the council together and passed several major progressive initiatives, including, but not limited to: placing lights in Wrigley Field, an Ethics Ordinance to prevent corruption and one of the first Human Rights Ordinances that protected gay men and women from discrimination and also the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. The Human Rights Ordinance is seen as an important moment in Chicago's gay and lesbian rights movement. Mayor Sawyer also expanded Chicago's governmental outreach to develop cooperative partnerships with business and industry.
More than just an elected official Mayor Eugene Sawyer was always remembered as a very nice man, who cared deeply about his family and his community. He served as a Trustee at the Vernon Park Church of God and continued as a mentor and inspiration to his own children, his extended family, and the large collection of citizens for whom he made Chicago truly work.
Mayor Eugene Sawyer passed away on January 19, 2008 at the age of 73.