Crusader Staff Report
Former Alderman Wilson Frost, who in 1976 assumed the role as mayor but was opposed by loyalists to Richard J. Daley, died Saturday, May 5. He was 92.
Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th) said, “There is no question in my mind that Wilson Frost would have, and should have, been our city’s first African-American mayor. Wilson Frost will be remembered for having the courage to uphold the City Council’s own Charter in the face of unprincipled and illegal opposition and maneuvering by his own Democratic Party members of the Council.”
Born in Cairo, IL on December 27 1925, Frost graduated from Fisk University in Nashville and the Chicago-Kent College of Law.
According to Historymakers, an online site dedicated to educating and enlightening “millions worldwide through refashioning a more inclusive reckoning of American history,” after graduating from Fisk, Frost was hired by the Postal Transportation Service as a clerk, where he remained until 1952. That year, he was hired to work at Provident Hospital as a statistician. After earning his law degree, Frost joined the firm of Frost, Sherard, Howse & Coleman, where he continued on as a partner until 1973. That same year, he left to form Meyer & Frost, which later became Frost & Greenblatt. He remained there until his retirement in 1998.
During his 20-year political career Frost served as alderman of the 21st and 34th Wards from 1967 to 1987. At the time, Frost was the highest-ranking African-American alderman on the council.
In 1976, Frost was poised to become Chicago’s first mayor after the death of Richard J. Daley, but he was blocked by the city council. During a week-long power struggle, Frost was locked out of the mayor’s office before the city council rebuffed Frost’s claim. Michael A. Bilandic, an alderman for the 11th Ward, was ultimately named mayor after Daley’s death. Had Frost’s reading of the city charter been upheld, he would have become the city’s first Black mayor. Frost eventually was named the chairman of the Finance Committee to appease Chicago’s Black residents.
During his illustrious career in public service, Frost was honored by many organizations. The Original Forty Club awarded him the Man of the Year Award in 1974. Upon his retirement the Illinois House of Representatives issued a resolution praising Frost’s work. Frost also actively served various organizations, including the John Marshall School of Law and Mercy Hospital Medical Center. He also served as vice president of the City Club of Chicago.
Frost and his wife Gloria had four children.
“Wilson Frost was a passionate public servant and a powerful voice for those he served,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “A giant in the City Council, he rose through the ranks and became chairman of the Finance Committee. His legacy endures through the generation of political and community leaders he mentored, and inspired.”
Former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr. served as Frost’s aldermanic secretary back in 1967. He said in a statement on Sunday, May 6, Frost was one of the state’s “great elder statesmen.”
“Wilson Frost was an iconic, larger than life public servant whose influence cannot be overstated,” Jones said. “Many have come before and many will come after, but he will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the 34th Ward and the entire city of Chicago.”
Frost leaves behind his wife and four children.