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Harold Washington was Chicagos first black mayor He was elected in 1983 in an election that garnered national attention He defeated the Republican candidate Bernard Epton with what many considered a rainbow coalition of supporters blacks Hispanics Asians liberal whites women and the elderly Chicago Remembers Harold Washington Washingtons surprise primary election victory over the incumbent mayor Jane Byrne and future mayor Richard M Daley put the national spotlight on Washington and when he beat Republican Bernard Epton in the general election he became Chicagos first black mayor Washington almost immediately faced opposition from political opponents in the City Council who resisted cooperating with him because he was an outsider and reformer That period was marked by turbulent fights in the Council between the twenty-nine anti-Washington aldermen and the twenty-one who were loyal to the new mayor Washington is best known for bringing opportunity to the underprivileged He also helped significantly raise the number of city contracts given to minority businesses as well as helped open doors for minorities to attain top positions in City Hall In the same vein Washington made Illinois the first state to honor Martin Luther King by creating a state holiday Washington did much for city policy as well He created the first citywide Ethics Ordinance and by writing the cities own Freedom of Information Act he encouraged everyone to become informed and involved with community operations Washington had always said that he would stay in office till the day he died he had the ambition to outlast former mayor Richard J Daley and his 20-year reign Sadly Washington served a little more than four years Washington who was sixty-five collapsed at his desk during a meeting with his press secretary and within minutes of his collapse paramedics were urgently attempting to revive him Chicago Mourns The Loss of Mayor Washington He had lost consciousness and suffered what was later described as a massive heart attack Washington
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