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Chicago celebrates Harold Washington's life and legacy on what would have been his 100th birthday

Honoring Harold Washington on what would have been his 100th birthday 04:05

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago is celebrating what would have been former Mayor Harold Washington's 100th birthday.

From boxing and running track at DuSable High School to making history as the city's first Black mayor, Harold Washington was larger than life.

He was ambitious, determined, and he loved people.

CBS 2's Jim Williams takes a look at where Washington took us, and how his legacy lives on today.

In so many ways, Chicago still is Harold Washington's town.

There are tributes to him across the city: the stunning, central library and a city college both downtown; an elementary school on the Far South Side; parks to the north and south; a cultural center in Bronzeville, where he grew up; and affordable housing in Rogers Park all bearing his name.

"They might as well call Chicago the Harold Washington city," said Brian Boyer, who served as Mayor Washington's speech-writer. "For me, and for a lot of people, you know, Harold still lives on in our memories and our lives."

When he took the oath of office as mayor in 1983, Harold Washington changed Chicago forever.

Longtime friend and top aide Jacky Grimshaw says he pioneered inclusion.

"Not just women, but also people of color, also gay and lesbian, and folks with disabilities," she said. "He stood for love of the city, I think he stood for love of people, and I think he stood for everybody having a fair shake."

Perri Irmer, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History, said "our expectations of Black leaders was set by his standard."

The Washington legacy lives on in an interactive exhibit at the DuSable Museum. It teaches one of his most important lessons.

"We must represent all people coming together," Irmer said. "It was an ideal that Harold believed in, and I think it's an ideal that we can achieve, eventually, in this nation."

While he had a soft, playful side, Harold Washington could be tough as nails.

"I cannot watch the city of Chicago destroyed by petty politics," he once said.

And while he knew how to have fun, another quality shined through.

"Harold Washington was brilliant," Boyer said.

"He was smart as a tack," Grimshaw said.

"Think of polished intellect, right? Something shiny and radiant that affects everyone who sees it, or experiences it; that was Harold Washington," said Kim Dulaney, director of education and programs at the DuSable Museum.

His energy, his smile, his love of life; as we mark his 100th birthday, we wonder what would he say?

"He'd probably be saying, 'I'm 100, maybe I look like I'm 80, but I feel like I'm 60!'" Grimshaw said.

You can get a sneak peek at a documentary about Harold Washington, "Punch 9 for Harold Washington," at the DuSable Museum in Hyde Park today from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Clips from the documentary will be shown, followed by a lively discussion.

Meantime, WVON and Pastor Richard Redmond will be passing out free blue buttons, reminiscent of Harold Washington's campaign buttons, at 9 a.m. at the Harold Washington Cultural Center at 4701 S. King Dr., and at 3 p.m. at the Harold Washington Library Center at 400 S. State St.


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