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Cook County honors late Clerk Karen Yarbrough, "a true trailblazer"

Cook County Board passes resolution honoring late Clerk Karen Yarbrough
Cook County Board passes resolution honoring late Clerk Karen Yarbrough 00:57

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County Board of Commissioners on Monday paid tribute to late Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, who died last month after being hospitalized with a serious medical condition.

The board held a special meeting to offer tributes from Yarbrough's family, staff, and local elected officials – including County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.

During the meeting, a symbolic resolution was passed, recognizing her life and work.

"She was an incredible person who was full of integrity and compassion. She was very quick to give you advice or course correction, and before you could be offended, she would smile at you," Johnson said.

Yarbrough, 73, was the first woman and first African American to be elected Cook County Clerk when she first took office in 2018. She died on April 7, during her second term in office, five days after she was hospitalized with an undisclosed medical condition.

She previously served as Cook County Recorder of Deeds from December 2012 until 2018. Those two offices merged in 2020.

Yarbrough also was an Illinois state representative from 2001 until 2012, representing parts of the western suburbs.

"She was a true trailblazer, who inspired a generation of young women and men to follow her example of putting service before herself," said interim Cook County Clerk Cedric Giles, who was her top deputy before she died.

Others who spoke at the memorial for Yarbrough included her husband Henderson Yarbrough, Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, and Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

The Chicago City Council paid tribute to Yarbrough at its last meeting on April 17, with aldermen describing her as "a giant of our community."

Last month, the Cook County Democratic Party tapped Giles to serve as interim clerk until December, and picked Cook County Commissioner Monica Gordon to run in the November general election to finish the remainder of Yarbrough's term, which expires in 2026. The Cook County Republican Party has yet to select a candidate for the election.

The clerk's office is responsible for managing elections in suburban Cook County. It also keeps records of property sales; birth, death, and marriage certificates; and other vital records in Cook County.

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