A veteran of the military and the movement, the Honorable William Cousins, Jr., spent his life serving his country, even when his country sought to stifle and shun him with the laws and lies of segregation and racism.
But he didn’t get bitter. He got busy.
Born in 1927 Mississippi, Judge Cousins moved to Chicago with his parents when he was 12. He graduated from DuSable High School on the South Side, earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Illinois and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
A life-long odds buster, Judge Cousins was an infantry officer during the Korean War, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s and stood up and spoke out for justice as an independent member of the Chicago City Council in the 60’s and 70’s, helping set the stage for Harold Washington to become the city’s first African American mayor a few years later.
He was elected three times as alderman of the 8th Ward before becoming a Cook County Circuit Court judge in 1976. Judge Cousins retired from the bench 26 years later from the Illinois Appellate Court.
The judge supported Operation Breadbasket, the economic arm of the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and then Operation PUSH, now the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
My prayers and profound condolences go out to his family but also to our country. We have lost an American who was the true definition of great.
He will live as long as we remember him.
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Founder and President
Rainbow PUSH Coalition