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Former City Architect And Public Works Commissioner Jerome Butler, Who Led 1970s Navy Pier Restoration, Dies At 93

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former Chicago city architect, Public Works Commissioner, and Aviation Commissioner Jerome R. Butler has died at the age of 93.

A death notice published Sunday did not specify the date when he died, but said visitation for Butler was to be held Wednesday.

An archive Chicago Tribune report noted that Butler was a 1952 graduate of the University of Illinois, and joined Chicago city government in 1960. He was appointed as city architect by Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1967, according to the Tribune.

The University of Illinois at Chicago noted that Butler studied at the old University of Illinois Navy Pier campus for his first two years of undergraduate education, and went on to help lead the restoration of the auditorium at the east end of Navy Pier in the 1970s.

According to the book "Navy Pier: A Chicago Landmark" by Douglas Bukowski, the auditorium at Navy Pier was in disrepair and was being subjected to the elements of the lakefront by the early 1970s. The city restoration project led by Butler began in 1974 and involved a full restoration of the auditorium, a promenade on the north side of the pier, and a solar energy project to heat the buildings on the pier's east end, the book said.

Butler won the American Institute of Architects' Design Excellence Award for the Navy Pier project, according to UIC.

The upgraded Navy Pier was ready for a Bicentennial fireworks celebration on July 4, 1976, according to Bukowksi's book.

Butler went on to be appointed as Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Works in 1979 as Mayor Jane Byrne took over, and remained in that position after Mayor Harold Washington took the reins four years later, according to the Tribune. Butler was removed from the Public Works position in 1985, but went on to serve a short term as commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation under Mayor Washington.

Meanwhile, Navy Pier hosted the annual ChicagoFest music festival from 1978 through 1982 and also hosted events such as art fairs before undergoing another overhaul to become the top Chicago attraction we know today. Butler was also involved with the further redevelopment of of Navy Pier before it reopened in 1995 with the familiar Family Pavilion, Crystal Gardens, carousel, and first Ferris wheel, according to published reports.

Butler is survived by children Ellyn, Carolyn, and Mark, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

While Butler went by Jerry for short, he is not to be confused with another Jerry Butler in local politics – who served 32 years as a commissioner on the Cook County Board and is also a world-renowned soul singer, songwriter, and producer.

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