Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne Dead at 81 – Ushered In and Out with Snow

Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne Dead at 81 – Ushered In and Out with Snow
Jane Byrne wins in 1979, Chicago Tribune Photo

It seems fitting that I learned about the death of former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne while I was driving west on 79th Street watching snowflakes fall on my windshield.

I was actually on my way to buy Ice Melt at a local hardware store when my wife called me to tell me that the former mayor had died at the age of 81.

Many people my age remember the “Blizzard of ‘79” fondly because it actually meant more than a few snow days off from school.  I was only in 7th grade at the time of Chicago’s Blizzard of 1979 that dumped more than 20 inches of snow on Chicago from January 13through January 14, 1979 but remember the fun we all had while all of the adults did not seem very happy at all.  I wonder why that was?

Chicago Blizzard of 1979

Chicago Blizzard of 1979

I remember seeing the flakes start to fall when my parents were driving us back from shopping and remarking about how large the flakes were.  Then they just kept falling and kept falling.

I really wasn’t into Chicago politics at the time but I knew that shortly after the Blizzard there was talk of a new mayor and a female to boot!  I actually thought it was rather cool that Chicago might have its first female mayor.

I guess the adults at the time were just a little ticked off with the incumbent Mayor Michael Bilandic and from what I read at the time the negative effects of the blizzard all but sealed Bilandic’s fate.

It is rather ironic that Bilandic had fired her as Consumer Sales Commissioner in 1977.

I guess Karma won out and Jane Byrne defeated Bilandic in the Democratic Primary on February 27, 1979 and was elected Chicago’s 50th and first and only female mayor on April 3, 1979.

Mayor Byrne served from 1979 until 1983 which was pretty much the years that I was in high school and those years were responsible for some of my fondest memories which is probably why I remember mayor Byrne with such fond memories.

Mayor Byrne lost the next Democratic primary to eventual Mayor Harold Washington 37% to 33% in 1983.

So we became acquainted with Jane Byrne via the snow and we say goodbye to Jane Byrne with what promises to be our first measurable snow this season.

May the wind be always at your back Mrs. Mayor.


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