Michael Anthony Bilandic

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Michael Anthony Bilandic
39th Mayor of Chicago
In office
December 20, 1976 – April 16, 1979
Preceded by Richard J. Daley
Succeeded by Jane Byrne
Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court
In office
January 1, 1994 – January 1, 1997
Preceded by Benjamin K. Miller[1]
Succeeded by James D. Heiple
Member of the Supreme Court of Illinois
In office
November 2, 1990 – August 30, 2000
City of Chicago Alderman
In office
June 12, 1969 – December 20, 1976
Preceded by Morgan Finley[2]
Constituency 11th Ward
Personal details
Born Michael Anthony Bilandic
(1923-02-13)February 13, 1923
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died January 15, 2002(2002-01-15) (aged 78)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place St. Mary's Cemetery
Evergreen Park, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Heather Morgan
(m. 1977–2002)

(his death)
Children Michael Jr.
Residence Old Town, Chicago, Illinois
Alma mater De La Salle Institute
B.A. St. Mary's University of Minnesota
DePaul University College of Law
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Marine Corps[3]
Years of service 1943–1945
Rank First Lieutenant
Battles/wars World War II

Michael Anthony Bilandic (February 13, 1923 – January 15, 2002) was an American Illinois politician who served as the 39th mayor of Chicago, Illinois, after the death of then-mayor Richard J. Daley, from December 20, 1976, until April 16, 1979. Bilandic was a Democrat and a Croatian-American who also served as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court some years after his tenure as Chicago mayor. Bilandic practiced law in Chicago for several years, having graduated from the DePaul University College of Law. Bilandic served as an alderman in the Chicago City Council, representing the eleventh ward on the south-west side (Bridgeport neighborhood) from June 1969 until he began his tenure as mayor in December 1976.


Early life and career

Born in Chicago to Croatian immigrant parents, Bilandic studied at De La Salle Institute (then known as De La Salle High School); graduating in 1940.[4] Bilandic joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II in 1943, serving as first lieutenant until 1945. After his time in the marine corps, Bilandic returned to school; receiving his bachelor's degree from St. Mary's University of Minnesota in 1947. After college, Bilandic returned to Chicago and became involved in political work. Bilandic began working in the city's eleventh ward was asked by then–committeeman Richard J. Daley to aid the Democratic party in 1948. In 1951, Bilandic later received his law degree from DePaul University College of Law. Bilandic officially began his political career after being elected alderman of the city's eleventh ward in the 1969 election, succeeding Morgan Finley; taking office on June 12, 1969.

Mayor of Chicago (1976; 1977–79)

When Mayor Richard J. Daley died on December 20, 1976, the President Pro Tempore of the City Council, Wilson Frost, announced that he was now acting mayor. However, much of the city council disputed Frost's claim. After nearly a week of closed-door negotiations, the city council announced that Bilandic had been selected to serve as acting mayor for approximately six months until a by-election could be held to choose a mayor to fill out the remaining two years in the late Mayor Daley's term. Bilandic was selected with the proviso that he would not contend in the election. Nonetheless, Bilandic chose to run in the spring election in 1977 and, still in his honeymoon period, received a popular mandate to assume Daley's mantle. However, popular though he was at this time, his term as mayor would prove to be short and difficult. Bilandic defeated democratic candidates Edward V. Hanrahan, Anthony Martin-Trigona, Roman Pucinski, Ellis Reid and Harold Washington in the April 1977 primary election.

On June 7, 1977, Bilandic was elected to as mayor of Chicago in the general election, defeating Dennis Block (Republican), Dennis Brasky (Socialist Labor) and Gerald Rose (U.S. Labor). Bilandic delivered his inaugural address and took office on June 22, 1977. Bilandic had to face several labor disputes while in the mayor's office, including a gravediggers and cemetery owners' strike and a threatened strike by members of Lyric Opera of Chicago.[5] The Chicago Butcher's Union worked to stop stores from selling fresh meat after 6 p.m., but Bilandic managed to work out a settlement.[5] Bilandic also had to face social unrest in June 1977 when an FALN bomb exploded in City Hall and started a two-day riot among the Puerto Rican community.[5]Bilandic oversaw the creation of ChicagoFest, a food and music festival held on Navy Pier. The Chicago Marathon had its first running in 1977 and Bilandic participated, finishing with a time of 4 hours.[6] A runner himself, Bilandic arranged to have five miles of unused equestrian paths along the lakefront converted to running paths.[7] During January 1979, a blizzard struck Chicago and effectively closed down the city; dropping a total of thirty-five inches of snow over a two-day period. The city's slow response to the debilitating storm was publicly blamed on Bilandic. Additionally, as part of attempts to deal with the storm, Bilandic ordered Chicago 'L' trains to bypass many intermediate stops, particularly affecting African–American neighborhoods on the South Side of the city,[8] and angering that large voter base.

1979 Democratic Primary

The former longtime head of Chicago's consumer affairs department, Jane Byrne (who was fired by Bilandic in 1977), ran against the mayor in the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. Besides dissatisfaction with the city's handling of the snowstorm, other issues hindered the mayor's reelection campaign. Republicans voted in the Democratic primary against the mayor in order to defeat the Democratic machine that had dominated Chicago politics for decades. Reverend Jesse Jackson endorsed Byrne for mayor. And North Side and Northwest Side voters voted for Byrne because they were angered by the Democratic leadership's slating of only South Side and Southwest Side candidates for mayor, clerk and treasurer. Bilandic very narrowly lost the primary, with 49% to Byrne's 51%; Byrne then won the general election with a record-setting 82% of the vote and became Chicago's first female mayor.[9]

Personal life

Chicago's Archbishop John Cardinal Cody married Bilandic to Chicago socialite Heather Morgan on June 1, 1977. Bilandic and Morgan had a son, Michael Bilandic Jr., born in 1978.[10]

Later career and death

Following his term as mayor, Bilandic was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court in 1984, and then the Illinois Supreme Court in 1990, where Bilandic served until 2000. From 1994 until 1996, Bilandic served as the Illinois Chief Justice.[11] On January 15, 2002, Bilandic died from heart failure and was interred in St. Mary's Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.


  1. ^ Illinois Courts - Benjamin Miller
  2. ^ Chicago Tribune – Danaher, A Daley Protege, Ald. Scholl For Circuit Court Clerk – November 2, 1968
  3. ^ NNDB: Michael A. Bilandic
  4. ^ ILLINOIS SENATE RESOLUTION - Michael A. Bilandic - (Mayor of Chicago; 1976-79)
  5. ^ a b c Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., p. 167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  6. ^ Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., pp. 166–167. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  7. ^ "Blago's Last Chance To Run The Chicago Marathon". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 2018-01-17. 
  8. ^ Eyes on the Prize: Part 8 "Back to the Movement" (1979–1983) on YouTube PBS 1990 at 28:43
  9. ^ Jane Byrne elected mayor of Chicago, February 27, 1979, Chicago Tribune
  10. ^ Drell, Adrienne (ed.), 2000, 20th Century Chicago: 100 years 100 voices, Sports Publishing Inc., p. 166. ISBN 1-58261-239-0
  11. ^ Michael A. Bilandic, Previous Illinois Supreme Court Justice

External links

  • First Inaugural Address
  • Second Inaugural Address
  • Michael Anthony Bilandic at Find a Grave
  • Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Illinois
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard J. Daley
Mayor of Chicago
December 20, 1976–April 16, 1979
Succeeded by
Jane Byrne
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