Former Chicago Teachers Union President
July 20, 1953-February 8, 2021
As an unapologetic Black woman, Karen Lewis was a powerful CTU president
When former Mayor Rahm Emanuel fought with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis before he closed 50 schools in 2013, he messed with a tough Black woman who demanded respect and often got it.
Lewis possessed soul that fueled her feisty defiance against City Hall. When Emanuel turned up the heat, so did she. Lewis became a hero to many, disillusioned with education after the Chicago Public Schools suffered from years of neglect and high turnover among the top leadership.
She was loud and unafraid to say what was on her mind. Her leadership awakened a teacher’s union and a city unaware of the realities of Illinois’ largest school district.
At the height of her activism, she had grown into a force to be reckoned with as she started a crusade for change in a school system crippled by teacher layoffs, closings and budget cuts.
When Lewis ran for mayor, she drew tremendous support that made Emanuel nervous. In the end, she became one of the most effective labor union leaders in the country who unapologetically flexed her bold, strong identity as a Black woman unwilling to compromise students’ education and her union’s integrity.
Today, Chicago is remembering the life and legacy of Lewis, whose career as the leader of one of America’s largest teachers’ unions showcased the raw power and energy of a Black woman who stared down the status quo to fight for teachers and other staff members in the nation’s third largest school district.
Lewis died on Monday, February 8, years after being diagnosed with brain cancer, which derailed her chances of running against Emanuel in a mayoral race that many believe she would have won.
Minutes after her death was announced, Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised Lewis as a fighter on WVON, saying she was a “bold, visionary and fearless leader of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). I had the privilege of sitting with her once and I came away from that conversation feeling lucky to have been in her presence. We send out sincere condolences to her family and the many, many people in Chicago who considered her a mentor and a friend. This is a day of sadness for our city.”
Former CTU spokesperson Steph- anie Gadlin said in a statement, “The nation has lost a true champion. Karen Lewis was one of the most powerful and prolific voices in public education, advocating for students, their families and the communities in which they live.
“For her tenure as president of the Chicago Teachers Union, she was the architect of today’s fight for education justice. As her spokeswoman, I cannot tell you how inspired I was by her leadership as well as her vulnerability as she navigated the treacherous terrain of Chicago politics. I cannot count how many times we shared tears over the plight of students and people who have been marginalized for years, or the bellows of laughter due to her biting sense of humor.
“Karen was my home girl. She rocked. Our city has lost a great voice. I send my heartfelt condolences to her loved ones, friends and to the 25,000 members of the CTU. May her memory reign for all days to come and may she find rest in the bosom of God.”
Lewis, 67, served as president of the union until she stepped down in 2018, replaced by Jesse Sharkey.
“There was nothing fake about her,” said Sharkey, current CTU president who served by her side for several years. “She told you exactly how she saw it. If she was angry with you, you knew she was angry with you, and then she was ready to put it aside and move on.”
Lewis was born on the South Side of Chicago on July 20, 1953. Her parents were CPS teachers. She attended Kenwood High School.
When she graduated from Dartmouth College in 1974 with a degree in sociology and music, Lewis was the only Black woman in her graduating class.
Lewis later earned a master’s degree in Inner City Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.
In 2010, Lewis became the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, a labor union that included at least 25,000 teachers.
After Emanuel reneged on a promise to give teachers a four percent salary raise in 2012, Lewis led the CTU on a seven-day strike.
The negotiations were contentious, with Lewis and Emanuel engaged in a back-and-forth battle while the school district was shut down. The success of the hard fought strike gave Lewis prominence and power on the local and national stage. She was re-elected in 2013, even as talk of her running for Chicago mayor grew.
Emanuel was perhaps Lewis’ biggest opponent, known for his profane language behind the scenes. During one meeting with Lewis, he jumped out of his chair and told Lewis “F—— you” after she called his plans for a longer school day a “babysitting” initiative. Lewis reportedly jumped out of her chair and said “who the F—— you think you are talking to? I don’t work for you.”
In 2013, Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education decided to close 50 Chicago public schools, many of them on the South Side. It was the largest closure in CPS’ history. Lewis, who was known to hurl verbal bombs, called Emanuel the “murder mayor.”
The following year, expectations for Lewis’ challenge against Emanuel for Chicago mayor were running high but never realized. Months before the election, Lewis was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer just about the time it was anticipated she would announce her run for the mayor’s office. Lewis returned to work after treatment, but later had a stroke in 2017.
Emanuel said in a tweet, “Karen Lewis was a tough and tireless champion for public education and for Chicago’s children, one who was never afraid to fight for what she believed in.”
In a statement, the CTU said Karen “bowed to no one, and gave strength to tens of thousands of Chicago Teachers Union educators who followed her lead, and who live by her principles to this day.
“Karen had three questions that guided her leadership: ‘Does it unite us, does it build our power and does it make us stronger?’
“Before her, there was no sea of red – a sea that now stretches across our nation.
She was the voice of the teacher, the paraprofessional, the clinician, the counselor, the librarian and every rank-and-file educator, who worked tirelessly to provide care and nurture for students; the single parent who fought tremendous odds to raise a family; and the laborer whose rights commanded honor and respect.
“She was a rose that grew out of South Side Chicago concrete – filled with love for her Kenwood Broncos alumni – to not only reach great heights, but to elevate everyone she led, to those same heights.”
Congressman Bobby Rush said, “During this time of year, we celebrate the works of African-Americans, past and present. Karen Lewis instilled her passion in the people she influenced throughout her career as an educator and later as the president of the Chicago Teachers Union. Ms. Lewis was a champion for the underserved, underrepresented, and voiceless which became the catalyst of a new generation of fearless leaders in education across our nation.”
Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said in a statement, “Today we mourn the loss of a dynamic woman who had an amazing impact on the education of Chicago school children and the people who dedicate their lives to teaching them.
“Karen Lewis led the Chicago Teachers Union with brilliance, grit, love, and style. She often found herself in rooms and spaces where she was the only woman and person of color, and she never failed to bring her authentic self to the table where decisions were made.
“I learned from Karen Lewis that when you find yourself in these rooms and spaces, you never dim your light to make others feel comfortable. My heartfelt condolences to her loved ones and the CTU family. May she rest in power.”
SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas President Greg Kelley said “Karen Lewis’ untimely death has dealt our members and the labor movement at large a heavy blow. Karen was a passionate visionary and for so long, unstoppable advocate for teachers, students, families and entire communities—and she knew the true meaning of solidarity.”
Chicago Democratic Socialists of America said, “Karen led CTU to forge a coalition of teachers, students, staff, parents, and community that stopped the tide of neoliberal austerity.
“Her leadership leading up to and during the 2012 CTU strike taught a generation of working class people how to organize, fight, and defeat the ruling class.
“After beating Rahm Emanuel at the bargaining table and in the streets in 2012, she prepared to beat him again in the 2015 mayoral election. Had her health not forced her to step back from her public leadership, Chicago might be a very different city today.”
March 6, 1944-February 8, 2021
Mary Wilson, founding and original member of the Supremes, died suddenly on Monday, February 8, according to a statement from her longtime friend and publicist, Jay Schwartz. She was at her home in Henderson, Nevada. She was 76.
A singer, best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, mother, and grandmother, Wilson made great strides on her journey to success.
An original/founding member of the Supremes, she helped change the face of pop music, becoming a trendsetter who broke social, racial, and gender barriers.
It all started with the wild success of the Supremes’ first No. 1 song. Formed in Detroit as the Primettes in 1959, the Supremes were Motown’s most successful act of the 1960s, scoring 12 No. 1 singles.
They continue to reign as America’s most successful vocal group to date. Their influence carries on in contemporary R&B, soul and pop, as they paved the way for mainstream success by Black artists across all genres.
According to Billboard Magazine, Wilson achieved an unprecedented 12 No. 1 hits. Five, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again” were consecutive, from 1964-1965.
January 21, 2021, marked the 60th anniversary of the day the Supremes signed with Motown in 1961. This year, Wilson kicked off the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Supremes.
With the same passion she devoted to singing with the original Supremes as well as with her solo career, the world-renowned performer was an advocate for social and economic change in the United States and abroad. Wilson used her fame and flair to promote a variety of humanitarian efforts, including ending hunger, raising HIV/AIDS awareness and encouraging world peace.
Wilson was working toward getting a U.S. postage stamp honoring her fellow band mate and fellow original Supreme Florence Ballard who died in 1976.
Wilson’s “Dare to Dream” lecture, which she gave to young people, emphasizes the need for personal perseverance to achieve goals, despite obstacles and adversities in their lives. The topic is the foundation of her best-selling autobiography, “Dreamgirl – My Life as a Supreme.” Wilson later authored its sequel, “Supreme Faith – Someday We’ll Be Together.”
In 2000, these two books, along with updated chapters, were combined to complete her third book. Her fourth book, “Supreme Glamour,” is a coffee table hardcover featuring the gowns, history and legacy of the Supremes.
The book showcases the gowns the Supremes were known for over the decades and delves into more history of the most successful female recording group of all time.
“The Story of the Supremes from the Mary Wilson Collection” spotlights more than 50 gowns exposing the international community to the impact their fashion had on social issues in the United States.
The exhibit traces their career from the early days when they were known as The Primettes to the glamorous height of their fame in the 70s. Their success story helped change racial perceptions during the time of the American Civil Rights Movement and appealed to people of all ethnic backgrounds.
A magnificent collection of dresses worn by Mary Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard for live performances, television performances, including the Butterfly dress worn on their television special in 1968, and on album covers, is featured alongside contemporary photographs and magazine spreads.
The gowns were curated by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for Wilson and later exhibited at the Detroit Historical Museum, the New York State Museum in Albany and the Long Island Museum. Several gowns have also been displayed at The Museum of Metropolitan Art in New York as part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit.
The gowns worn by Wilson and the original Supremes – Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, as well as the 1970s Supremes – have been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Wilson was honored at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills celebrating her work in music and her influence on young African Americans and entertainment.
Her influence reached beyond music. In 2018, her longtime fight in the passage of the Music Modernization Act (MMA) came to fruition when the United States legislature signed the act into law on October 11, 2018. The act aims to modernize copyright-related issues for new music and audio recordings due to new forms of technology like digital streaming, which did not protect music recorded before February 15, 1972.
Wilson’s last solo recording, her song “Time to Move On,” reached No. 23 on the Billboard Dance charts, which marked her first time on the charts with a solo recording, since the Supremes. She was working on new projects for 2021 including an album she recently teased on her YouTube channel.
Her primary love was preserving the legacy of the Supremes and introducing her music to new generations.
Interest in the Supremes’ legacy was renewed after the release of the award-winning film “Dreamgirls,” in 2006. While the film created a wonderful piece of work using the likeness of the Supremes, as well as their history, Wilson said it did not depict their true story.
In the spring of 1962, after recording a few songs for their first album, Barbara Martin left the group to marry her childhood sweetheart. Now the newly named Supremes, Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson became a trio, which to this day remains one of their greatest trademark signatures.
From 1961 to 1963, the Supremes recorded many songs and released eight singles, which did not garner much attention and jokingly earned them the title “no-hit Supremes” at Motown.
Their fate changed dramatically in late 1963 when the song “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes,” written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, was released and peaked at No. 23 on the Billboard pop chart.
It was in August of 1964 that their single “Where Did Our Love Go” reached No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts and No. 3 in the United Kingdom. Four more No. 1 hits soon followed, the aforementioned “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again,” making the Supremes the only group to have five consecutive No. 1 hits.
The Supremes’ success attracted many promotional opportunities, allowing them to become one of the first pop groups of the 1960s to have commercial endorsements, including Coca-Cola, Arrid deodorant, and even their own “Supreme” white bread and wig brands.
The year 1967 was pivotal for the group. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong, and Berry Gordy renamed the group “Diana Ross and the Supremes.” In January 1970, Diana Ross performed for the last time with the Supremes before pursuing a solo career.
With Ross’ departure, Wilson was left as the only original member of the Supremes. She continued performing with Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell as the “New” Supremes, better known today as the “70s Supremes.”
The “New” Supremes scored a number of hits including “Up the Ladder to the Roof” (U.S. No. 10, UK No. 6), “Stoned Love” (U.S. No. 7, UK No. 3) and “Nathan Jones” (U.S. No. 16, UK No. 5). These three singles were also R&B Top Ten hits, with “Stoned Love” becoming their last No. 1 hit in December of 1970.
In 1972, the Supremes had their last Top 20 hit single release, “Floy Joy,” written and produced by Smokey Robinson, followed by the final U.S. Top 40 hit “Automatically Sunshine” with Wilson on lead vocals, (U.S. No. 37, UK No. 10).
While Wilson is best known as a founding member of the world’s most famous female trio, the legendary singer’s career did not stop there.
The 70s found Wilson married and starting a family. In June, 1977, Wilson embarked on her solo career and toured Europe and Asia while raising three babies. Wilson recorded two solo albums, including her self-titled debut in 1979 with the single “Red Hot,” and her 1990 release “Walk the Line.”
In 1988, Mary Wilson accepted the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of the Supremes when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1994, the Supremes received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; in 1998, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
In 2001, Ms. Wilson was the recipient of an Associate’s Degree from New York University and an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia.
As a force of social and cultural change, Berry Gordy’s legendary Motown Records made its mark not just on the music industry, but society at large, with a sound that has become one of the most significant musical accomplishments and stunning success stories of the 20th century. The Supremes were in the forefront of the legendary Motown performers.
Along with fellow Motown acts Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, the Marvelettes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and later, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Michael Jackson & the Jackson 5, and Lionel Richie & the Commodores, they communicated their music, bringing together a racially divided country and segregated society around the world, touching people of all ages and races.
Wilson toured the globe not only as a performer, but also as an advocate addressing social and civic issues. As a Supreme, she performed for Britain’s Queen Mother and the future King of Sweden and other international audiences. Wilson’s global stature grew after former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell named her one of nine cultural ambassadors in 2003.
In November 2004, she was one of the featured performers to headline the United Nations’ “World AIDS Day” concert in New York City.
In 2018, Billboard celebrated the 60th anniversary of Motown with a list of “The Hot 100 Top Artists of All Time,” where the Supremes ranked at No. 16 and still remain the No. 1 female recording group of all time.
Wilson is survived by her daughter Turkessa and grandchildren (Mia, Marcanthony, Marina); her son, Pedro Antonio Jr. and grandchildren (Isaiah, Ilah, Alexander and Alexandria).
The family asks, in lieu of flowers, that friends and fans support UNCF.org and the Humpty Dumpty Institute.
July 11, 1953 – February 5, 2021
He stunned the boxing world by beating reigning champion Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title in 1978. Spinks died February 5 after battling prostate cancer for five years. He was 67.
A St. Louis native and former Marine, Spinks won a gold medal as a light heavyweight at the 1976 Olympics. He was just 13 months and eight fights into his pro boxing career, when he stepped into a ring against Ali on February 15, 1978, in Las Vegas.
He made his professional boxing debut on January 15, 1977, in Las Vegas. He defeated Bob Smith by a knockout after five rounds. His next victory came after knocking out Peter Freeman in the first round in a fight that was held in Liverpool, England.
Spinks’ defining moment came in 1978 when he faced world champion Ali, who as a 36-year-old world champion was past his glory days. But Spinks was a heavy underdog who had never gone beyond 10 rounds. Spinks was 24 when he took on Ali. He had enough endurance to survive a 15th-round flurry from Ali and provided one of his own in the closing seconds. The fight ended in a split decision that went to Spinks, who flashed his famous gap-toothed grin after becoming the only fighter to take a title from Ali in the ring. Ali left the ring with a bruised and puffy face.
Spinks and Ali met again seven months later at the Superdome in New Orleans. Ali won and reclaimed the heavyweight title.
Spinks retired at age 42 after losing a unanimous decision to Fred Houpe in December 1995 and finished his career with an unremarkable record of 26-17-3 (14 KOs). In addition to an Olympic Gold Medal, Spinks earned a silver medal from the Pan American Games in 1975 in Mexico City. In 1974, Spinks earned a bronze medal in the World Championships in Havana, Cuba.
June 17, 1968 – February 4, 2021
Durham was the first Black senior national gymnastics champion and a trailblazer in the sport. She was 52.
A native of Gary, Indiana, Durham moved to Houston, Texas, as a teen to train with gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi at the Károlyi Ranch.
At just 14 years old, Durham stood before thousands of spectators on the biggest stage in American gymnastics.
Known for her combination of grace, artistry and power, as well as her joyful personality, Durham and her teammate, Mary Lou Retton, pulled the sport of gymnastics into an era dominated by power tumbling and fast-paced progression.
Dressed in a purple patterned leotard, Durham paused on the mat, took a deep breath — and then she leapt. In under two minutes, she breezed through an effortless floor routine, soaring through the air with the grace of a trained dancer and the strength of someone much older. Finishing with a double twist, she landed with her arms raised in victory.
Durham’s overall performance earned her four gold medals and the distinction of being the first Black gymnast to become the U.S. all-around champion.
The last gymnast to beat Retton in all-around competition, in the lead-up to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Durham was deprived of a spot on the team due to a combination of injuries and politics.
But it is her achievement as the 1983 senior national champion, which launched not only Durham but her coaches, Béla and Martha Károlyi, onto the national stage, for which Durham is most remembered.
But Durham’s Olympic dreams ended with an ankle injury in the trials for the 1984 Olympics. She believed Károlyi would petition to include her in the training group since she couldn’t finish the trials, she told ESPN in a 2020 interview, but since she was kept from competing in the world championships that year, she was disqualified from the Olympics.
October 15,1943 – February 2, 2021
For decades, Wilson was a trailblazing professional model who broke racial barriers in Chicago before becoming a Black female entrepreneur, whose public relations firm represented a host of prominent companies.
She was born in Winona, Mississippi. At the age of seven, Wilson moved to Chicago. She attended Farren School, Shakespeare Elementary School, and Hyde Park High School. She continued her education at Roosevelt University, where she graduated with her B.A. degree.
Upon her graduation from Hyde Park High School, Wilson began working for Goldblatt’s department store in the Accounts Payable Adjusting Department in 1961. Wilson then moved to Compton Advertising, Inc., where she worked as a secretary and assistant producer. She also started her part-time modeling career and became the first African-American runway model in Chicago, Illinois, in 1964. Wilson began her modeling career by working for Marshall Field & Company and Carson Pirie Scott. In 1968, Wilson joined Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency on a project with Sears, Roebuck & Company. During the project, she also worked as a model and instructor at Sears, Roebuck, and Company Charm School. She was promoted in 1970 to director of fashion and casting at Foote, Cone & Belding, where she cast models and helped producers during shoots. During this time, she continued to model and starred in numerous fashion shows, advertisements, and events, including Gucci’s Fall 1970 campaign and the Dress Horsemen and Trophy Board Annual Benefit Fashion Spectacular in 1975.
In 1980, Wilson began her successful entrepreneurial career with the opening of Dori Wilson Public Relations, a firm whose clients have included the City of Chicago, Tiffany & Co., and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The following year, Wilson helped form The Chicago Academy for the Arts. Wilson also served on the boards of the Harris Theater, the Chicago Urban League, and Brookfield Zoo.
Wilson has been listed in “Who’s Who Among Black Americans” and in Donna Ballard’s book, “Doing It For Ourselves: Success Stories of African American Women in Business,” which was published in 1997. In 2008, she was honored in an evening of recognition at the Stanley Paul/Raelene Mittelman Scholarship Benefit.
Model, Actress, Activist
December 19, 1924 – January 28, 2021
Tyson was a model, an award-winning film, television and Oscar-nominated actress whose career spanned nearly seven decades. She was 96.
She built a successful career by carefully choosing roles that exemplified quality and the depth of Black women. In 1963 Tyson became the first African-American star of a TV drama in the series “East Side/West Side,” playing the role of secretary Jane Foster. She went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for 1972s “Sounder.” She also portrayed notable roles on television, including Kunta Kinte’s mother in the adaptation of Alex Haley’s “Roots” and the title role in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” which earned Tyson two Emmy Awards in 1974.
In her lifetime, Tyson won three Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, among other honors, over the course of her acting career. She was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977.
In 1981, Tyson starred in the television movie “The Marva Collins Story.” Starring alongside actor Morgan Freeman who played her husband, Tyson played Marva Collins, a Black, frustrated Chicago Public School teacher who founded West Side Preparatory School in her home on the South Side. Her school defied odds, criticisms, threats and financial problems to help struggling students score high on standardized tests with no outside help. The movie was based on the true story of Marva Collins, who gained widespread acclaim and national attention for her school’s accomplishments. She died in 2015.
Tyson was born poor in New York City on December 19, 1924, and grew up in Harlem, New York. At the age of 18, she walked away from a typing job and began modeling. Tyson was then drawn to acting, though she had not been permitted to go to plays or movies as a child. When she got her first acting job, her religious mother, feeling that Tyson was choosing a sinful path, kicked her out of their home.
During her career, Tyson had trouble simply finding work. She flatly refused to do “blaxploitation” films, or to take parts solely for the paycheck and was selective about the roles she chose.
Tyson was married to Miles Davis for seven years in the 1980s and had no children. She co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968.
In 2015 Tyson was nominated for an Emmy for her guest-starring role in ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. The following year, she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.
TV Weatherman and Pilot
July 31, 1934 – January 17. 2021
Tilmon was a longtime Emmy-winning newscaster at WMAQ NBC 5 Chicago. He was also an accomplished musician. He was 86. The veteran journalist passed away at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he lived with his wife of 32 years, Joan.
An Oklahoma native, Tilmon was not only known for his role as a Chicago newscaster, but was a retired pilot who reported on aviation and science during his 22-year tenure at NBC 5.
While Tilmon spent more than two decades at NBC 5, he began his broadcasting career at WTTW by hosting the first live weekly magazine show developed for and by African Americans. He also worked as a forecaster and aviation expert at CBS 2.
Tilmon was born on July 31, 1934, in Guthrie, Oklahoma. He earned his B.A. degree in music from Lincoln University in Missouri and served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers for eight years, earning the rank of captain.
Tilmon’s interest in flying carried him from the U.S. Army to American Airlines in 1965, where he became the airline’s third African-American commercial pilot and the country’s fifth. Tilmon spent 29 years with American Airlines before retiring; his talent earned him the Captain’s Chair Award from American Airlines; inspired United Airlines to grant him the title of honorary captain; and compelled the FAA to name an aviator’s navigation point after him.
While still piloting aircrafts, Tilmon set another precedent by hosting the first live weekly magazine show developed for and by African Americans. ‘Our People’ premiered one week after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Tilmon’s guests included notable politicians, artists, and activists, such as Harold Washington, author James Baldwin, and jazz vocalist Johnny Hartman. After four years at WTTW, Tilmon became a weather forecaster and aviation and science reporter at Chicago’s NBC affiliate. He appeared on numerous national programs, including: ‘Hardball,’ ‘NBC Nightly News’ and ‘Nightline.’
Tilmon was awarded a Chicago Emmy in 1974 and was nominated for a National Emmy and the Illinois Associated Press and Illinois United Press International awards for excellence in reporting and broadcasting. In 2002, the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented Tilmon with the Silver Circle Award for 25 years in television.
In 1994, Tilmon retired from the airlines and NBC and moved to Arizona, where he continued to do on-air aviation reporting. In 2002, Tilmon returned to Chicago as a weather forecaster and aviation reporter and analyst for the CBS affiliate.
February 5, 1934 – January 22, 2021
Nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank,” Aaron is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. With the Atlanta Braves, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s hallowed mark of 714 home runs on April 8, 1974, and finished his career with numerous big-league records.
Aaron ranks second all-time in home runs (755), third in hits (3,771), third in games played (3,298) and tied for fourth with Ruth in runs scored (2,174).
Over the course of his career, he won two batting titles, led his league in homers and RBIs four times each, and won three Gold Gloves for fielding excellence. His record of 755 home runs stood for 33 years.
Born Henry Louis Aaron on February 5, 1934, in a poor Black section of Mobile, Alabama, called “Down the Bay,” Aaron was the third of eight children born to Estella and Herbert Aaron, who made a living as a tavern owner and a dry dock boilermaker’s assistant.
Aaron ascended the ranks of the Negro Leagues to become a Major League Baseball icon. He spent most of his 23 seasons as an outfielder for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, during which time he set many records, including a career total of 755 home runs. Aaron was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1999, MLB established the Hank Aaron Award to annually honor the top hitter in each league.
In late 1951, 18-year-old Aaron quit school to play for the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns. It was not a long stay, but the talented teenager left his mark by hitting .366 and leading his club to victory in the league’s 1952 World Series. Additionally, he would become the last to play in both the Negro Leagues and the Major Leagues.
As Aaron drew closer to home run No. 714, the chase to beat Ruth’s record revealed that the world of baseball was far from being free of the racial tensions that prevailed around it. Letters poured into the Braves offices, as many as 3,000 a day for Aaron. Some wrote to congratulate him, but many others were appalled that a Black man should break baseball’s most sacred record.
On January 8, 2001, Aaron was presented with the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Bill Clinton. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President George W. Bush in June 2002.