Hyde Park’s activists, politicians, and leaders

By Claire McNear

Bill Ayers

From membership in both Students for a Democratic Society and the notorious Weather Underground, Hyde Park resident Bill Ayers’s reputation as a New Left radical and an activist is firmly cemented. Ayers participated in a number of controversial acts designed to disrupt governmental control, including a 1969 riot in Chicago and several bombings; recently, he has gained attention for comments affirming some of the violent acts from his past and for his ties to Barack Obama. He is married to Bernadine Dohrn and is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Carol Moseley Braun

Carol Moseley Braun earned a J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1972. She served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1978 to 1987 and went on to represent Illinois in the Senate from 1993 until the conclusion of her term in 1996. Moseley Braun, who lives in Hyde Park, has had a particular reason to thank the University of late: In April 2007, two U of C students fended off a mugger who attacked her late at night.

Jon Corzine

Although he currently calls New Jersey’s governor’s mansion home, Jon Corzine once was a Hyde Parker: He received his M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Business in 1973. He also served as a Garden State senator from 2001 to 2006.

Willie Cochran

The 20th ward of Chicago, which includes the western part of Hyde Park, has been represented by Alderman Willie Cochran since May 2007. A former community organizer of the Woodlawn New Communities Program, Cochran served as a police officer in the 20th ward for 12 years before taking up a spot in the Chicago City Council.

Bernadine Dohrn

Bernadine Dohrn, like her husband Bill Ayers, was an instrumental part of the Weather Underground, spending a portion of the ’70s in hiding and on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. She got her B.A. in Political Science in 1973 from the U of C and followed it up four years later with a J.D. from the Law School. Today, Dohrn, who lives with Ayers in Hyde Park, is the director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center and an associate professor at Northwestern’s law school.

Louis Farrakhan

One of the more famous residents of Kenwood, the neighborhood directly north of Hyde Park, Louis Farrakhan is best known for being the supreme minister of the Nation of Islam and an outspoken leader of the black community.

Leslie Hairston

Leslie Hairston, alderman of the fifth ward of Chicago, is a Hyde Park native. As alderman, she represents the ward in the Chicago City Council along with representatives from the 49 other Chicago wards. She was elected in 1999 and reelected in 2003 and 2007.

Don Harmon

After earning a J.D. and an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago, Don Harmon went on to be elected to the Illinois State Senate. He has represented the 39th district, which encompasses parts of several neighborhoods on the North Side, since 2003.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama scarcely needs introduction. Now the official presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, Obama has represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate since 2005. He spent 12 years as a lecturer of constitutional law at the U of C law school and resides in a home in Kenwood with his wife, Michelle Obama, and two daughters (when not on the campaign trail, anyway).

Michelle Obama

In spite of an increasingly large role in her husband’s campaign, Michelle Obama has pledged to spend the majority of her time at home in Chicago with her daughters. She has done so, augmenting a place in the South Side community that is especially marked at the U of C, where she has worked at the University hospitals since 2002 after serving for six years as the associate dean of student services.

Toni Preckwinkle

For 17 years, Toni Preckwinkle has served as the alderman of the fourth ward of Chicago, which includes all of Kenwood, the northern part of Hyde Park, and other neighboring areas. A frequent opponent of Mayor Richard Daley and a supporter of Barack Obama, Preckwinkle is also widely regarded as a progressive leader, and calls the University her alma mater: She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees here.

Bobby Rush

Hyde Park is a part of the legislative first district of Illinois; since 1993, Bobby Rush has acted as its representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1999 he lost a bid for mayor to Richard Daley, and in 2000 he held his seat as congressman against challenger Barack Obama.

Harold Washington

The late Harold Washington was a member of the Illinois Senate from 1976 until 1980 and then mayor of Chicago from 1983 until his death in 1987. During his time as mayor, he lived in Hyde Park, and his legacy is carried on in the form of the main branch of the Chicago Public Library, a college in the Loop, a South Side park, and a cultural center, all of which now bear his name.