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Remembering Harold: Re-election Night, 1987

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Mayor Harold Washington's victory speech at Navy Pier for a 2nd term as Chicago Mayor. Joining him on stage are Marty Oberman, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Mary Ellen and City Treasurer Cecil Partee. Chicago Sun-Times Library File Photo


As the 25th anniversary of Harold Washington's death approaches this Sunday, November 25, 2012, we're sharing moments of remembrance all this week. All stories are from the Sun-Times archives. And don't forget to check out our Harold Washington timeline.


Mayor proves results worth singing about
By: Don Terry, Leon Pitt
April 8, 1987


In a warbling rendition of "My Kind of Town," Mayor Washington greeted his re-election party last night at Navy Pier with an off-key sing-a-long and a burst of bubbling hyperbole.

"I have a feeling it's a good thing I got your votes before I sang `Chicago, Chicago,' " Washington joked to more than 2,000 supporters in the Navy Pier rotunda.

"Harold, Harold" the throng chanted inside, ringing in the first incumbent mayor to be re-elected since Richard J. Daley. Outside, they danced wildly, delighted that for another four years their man is The Man on City Hall's Fifth Floor.

The luminaries were there on the podium - the Rev. Jesse Jackson on one side of the mayor and boxing promoter Don King on the other. But it was to the voters - the folks who worked the streets and passed the buttons and pressed the flesh - that the mayor blew kisses.

The grand old Navy Pier rotunda, where revelers in 1983 ushered in a new era in Chicago politics at Washington's inauguration, was less like a religious revival this time around, but the crowd heard the city's first black mayor ring a familiar refrain of "unity" and "new spirit" and "wiping the slate clean."

A sweat-beaded and beaming Washington was overjoyed at his re-election, telling the crowd that "the whole world is watching Chicago tonight," and that his tenure has quashed the city's reputation as the home of Al Capone and "rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat" machine gun fire and ugly race riots.

"Now anywhere you go in the world . . . you know what they say to you?" Washington asked. "They ask, `How's Harold?' "

Before his first election, Washington said, Chicago was a place "where everyone went who didn't want to be anybody."

Roland Espinoza, 32, of the 25th ward, agreed, saying that before Washington's 1983 election, "I didn't have any hope. Now I'm happy."

The Rev. George Clements, pastor of Holy Angels Church, brought his two adopted sons with him to Navy Pier "because I wanted them to see history in the making."

"Young people are the real winners because Harold Washington is going to make this a better city for everyone," Clements said.

The celebration capped a busy last-day of campaigning for "Harold," who among allies and enemies alike has reached that familiar single-name status like Ronnie and Reggie and Big Jim. The mayor reached back to his roots, visiting housing projects and streets on the Far South, South and Southwest sides to thank voters for sending him to the top post four years ago and he urging them to do it again.

"You always wind up your campaign on home turf," the mayor told reporters. "You always go home.

"Everybody votes today. Nobody stays home," he shouted through his well-worked bullhorn during a 45-minute walking tour of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project at 131st and Ellis.

Washington, who began his hectic trek shortly after voting near his Hyde Park home at 7:45 a.m., used the horn repeatedly through his last day of campaigning, which ended at 6:30 p.m.

To "wake up" the voters, a sound truck preceded the mayor's arrival for the "thank you" campaign swing.

"The mayor promised you he would come (to your neighborhood) so come out and see Harold Washington," residents were urged.

Washington received his biggest reception as he meandered in and out of businesses along 51st and 47th streets in the 1st Congressional District, where he first won elective office to the House of Representatives.

He was accompanied during the afternoon stomp by "3rd Ward boss" Ald. Dorothy Tillman, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who Washington described as "the world traveler and presidential aspirant," tough-guy actor Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and Congressman Charles Hayes (D-Ill.).

"Do your civic responsibility. Can't nobody beat us, but us," Hayes shouted repeatedly as the crowds swelled during the promenade down 51st.

"Punch 10," Washington shouted, meaning a straight Democratic ticket, and the mayor's plea evoked numerous pledges of support and chants of "four more years." He also shook the hands of hundreds of supporters, referring to many of them by name, and poked his head in some businesses and shops to ask, "Have you voted in there?"

Another man shouted, "Hey, man. You won already. We cool."

Even a perspiration-soaked Washington would have agreed with that.

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