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John Stroger, 1929-2008

By Margaret Lyons in News on Jan 18, 2008 4:30PM

2008_1_18.stroger.jpgFormer Cook County Board President John Stroger has died, Mayor Daley announced this morning. He was 78.

Born in Arkansas, Stroger moved to Chicago in 1953 and was named Democratic committeeman of the 8th Ward in 1968. He was elected to the Cook County board in 1970, and was elected board president in 1990. He never fully recovered from the stroke he suffered in March 2006 and officially retired in July of that year; his son Todd took his spot on the ballot and became County Board President.

Like many Democratic machine politicians whose careers span more than three decades, President Stroger leaves a legacy that is still being sorted out.

He made county government more responsive by changing the way commissioners are elected...oversaw the building of [Stroger Hospital]...oversaw the construction of a new domestic violence courthouse and made sure county government provided more jobs and contracts to women and minorities.

And he paved the way for generations of others by becoming the first African American elected to head county government, the second largest local government in the state....

But President Stroger has also been accused of padding the county payroll with political cronies and relatives, being more open to tax increases than cutting waste and installing political pals in high-paying jobs in the Cook County Forest Preserve District while laying off the people responsible for picking up the garbage and cleaning the toilets. [S-T obit]

In addition to Todd, John Stroger is survived by his wife Yonnie, daughter Yonnie Lynn, and two grandchildren. [CBS 2, Trib, more S-T, WBEZ]

AP photo