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Clerk Yarbrough’s memorial service to be held at Rockefeller Chapel

Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough (center) is flanked by Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart (left) and Commissioner Bill Lowry’s Chief of Staff La’Mont R. Williams (right), in a May 2022 photo.

A public memorial service for the iconic Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough will be held at 3 p.m., Sunday, April 14, at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Avenue. Former U.S. Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, who, like Yarbrough, was the first Black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, will give the eulogy.

The doors to Rockefeller Chapel will open at 2:30 p.m.

The memorial service will be a historic occasion where Clerk Yarbrough’s amazing life and legacy will be shared with those who worked with her and were the recipients of her unending and dedicated service. Yarbrough was a woman and mother who held three elected positions at the same time and who left a legacy that will be a hard act to follow.

Cook County Clerk
Karen Yarbrough

Since 2018, Yarbrough, became the first African American and first woman to be elected Cook County Clerk in the second most populous county in America. In 2012, she served for six years as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds and, prior to that, she served 12 years in the Illinois Legislature as a State Representative in the 7th district and Assistant Majority Leader.

She also served as the Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, Committeewoman of the Proviso Township Democratic Organization, and Committeewoman and Superdelegate for the 7th Congressional District.

Condolences continue to pour in. Having worked closely with Yarbrough, Bishop Dr. Claude Porter, president, and CEO of the PLCCA, Inc., said, “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the passing of Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough. Her dedication to public service and tireless advocacy for the residents of Cook County have left an indelible mark on our community.

“I join countless others in expressing profound sorrow at her untimely departure. Karen Yarbrough was not just a public figure; she was a beacon of hope and inspiration for many. Her leadership, integrity, and unwavering commitment to justice were evident in every aspect of her work.

“Whether it was championing voter rights, advocating for transparency in government, or spearheading initiatives to improve access to vital services, Karen Yarbrough always put the needs of the people first.

“Her legacy will endure as a testament to the power of compassion, courage, and determination in effecting positive change. As we mourn her loss, let us also celebrate her remarkable life and the countless lives she touched along the way,” said Bishop Porter.

Yarbrough oversaw one of the largest consolidated Clerk’s offices in the United States and served as the Chief Election Authority for suburban Cook County.

In December 2020, the Clerk’s Office assumed all official duties of the former Recorder of Deeds Office under Yarbrough’s leadership. The Clerk’s Office now manages the recording of all deeds, property documents, and business forms for all of Cook County.

The Clerk also maintains and administers all Cook County Vital Records, including births, marriages, civil unions, and deaths. Clerk Yarbrough played a crucial role in the property tax system, maintaining delinquent tax records, tax maps, and information regarding TIF Districts.

Yarbrough also functioned as the Clerk of the Cook County Board, preparing board agendas, post-meeting reports, and official County Board records. As Cook County Clerk, Yarbrough operated a Veteran’s Services Division where she provided the free recording of veterans’ DD-214 Military Certificates of Release or Discharge from Active Duty as well as a military and veterans discount card that offers all active-duty military and veterans reduced costs and benefits from hundreds of Cook County businesses.

While serving as the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Yarbrough established herself as a national leader determined to confront property fraud and advocate for property owners.

Yarbrough’s education includes a B.A. in Business Management from Chicago State University, an M.A. in Inner City Studies from Northeastern Illinois University, a Certificate of Public Leadership from Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, where she serves as the Legislative Committee Chair. She also completed advanced leadership studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

In 2021, she received the nation’s top professional achievement for election officials, being designated a Certified Elections Registration Administrator (CERA) after completing a multi-year course of study from Auburn University’s Master’s in Public Administration program.

Yarbrough was no stranger to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition where Rev. Janette Wilson, national executive director of PUSH Excel, said she “broke the glass ceiling” by becoming the first African American and first female to serve as Cook County Clerk.

In all of the positions Clerk Yarbrough served, Wilson said, “She was known to be fair and an advocate for justice—a true public servant. She will be sorely missed—her impact will last forever.”

Yarbrough leaves to mourn her husband, Henderson Yarbrough, a blended family of six children—daughters, Vicky Yarbrough, Tami Yarbrough, Carmen White, and Sarah Murphy; sons, Henderson Yarbrough, Jr., and Keith Coleman; 12 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and a host of friends and family.

A public visitation will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 12, at Grace Central Church, 10216 Kitchener Street, Westchester, IL.

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