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 »  Home  »  People  »  Michael Bilandic mayor of Chicago 1977-1979 proud of his Croatian heritage
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Michael Bilandic mayor of Chicago 1977-1979 proud of his Croatian heritage
By Darko Žubrinić | Published  01/19/2015 | People , In Memoriam , History , Education , Croatian Life Stories | Unrated
His father was from a village near Sinj and his mother was from the island of Brac, both in Croatia


Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic and his wife Heather Morgan with their son Michael Morgan Bilandic Jr.

 
Michael Anthony Bilandic

Michael Anthony Bilandic was one of the more influential and highly regarded public figures in Chicago, serving as Mayor of Chicago from 1976-1979 and later as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.  He was a man of commitment and a loyal Chicagoan.  Most importantly, he was devoted to his family, faithful to his church, and proud of his Croatian heritage.  He died on January 16, at the age of 78.  He is survived by his wife Heather, son Michael, brothers Steve and Nick, and sister Eleanor. 

Born on February 13, 1923 to Croatian immigrants, Bilandic grew up in the Bridgeport community where he attended St. Jerome Grammar School (class of ‘36), and De La Salle High School.  After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from St. Mary’s College, he attended DePaul University College of Law where he earned a Juris Doctor degree.  During WWII, he courageously served as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. 



Justice Bilandic’s political career was rich and diverse, including service in all three branches of government over four decades.  He began his long and distinguished public service career in 1969 when his neighbors elected him to represent them as Alderman of the 11th Ward.  As a member of the City Council, Alderman Bilandic pushed for the passage of many initiatives designed to protect the city’s environment, including a ban on harmful lead-based paint and phosphates in laundry detergent, and the passage of the Lakefront Protection Ordinance.  Considered an expert in government finance, he rose to serve as Chairman of the city’s Finance Committee and later became floor leader.  

In 1976, Bilandic was selected by his colleagues to serve as Mayor of Chicago.  He was elected to that office in 1977, and held the post until 1979.  As Mayor, he continued to be an innovator in the area of enhancing our city.  He organized the first ChicagoFest, which was the precursor of many current festivals, and lent his support to the Chicago Marathon, which has become one of the premier running events in the world.  He arranged the city-insured, low-interest mortgage loans for middle-income families in order to make the city more appealing to families.  His wise and intelligent concern for the good of Chicago is evident in his accomplishments.

Bilandic returned to private law practice in 1979, and was widely respected for his keen intellect and exceptional insight into the intricacies of corporate law.  A new career was  begun with his election to the 1st District Appellate court and, in 1990, with his election to the highest judicial office, the Illinois Supreme Court, where he served as Chief Justice from 1994 through l996.  Justice Bilandic will always be remembered for his long years of unselfish public service, characterized by his decency, intelligence, and integrity.  The legacy of Bilandic’s dedication, devotion, and hard work serve as an example to all.  A group of Chicago aldermen are leading an effort to rename the State of Illinois Building after him.

While much of Michael Bilandic’s life was often consumed by his outstanding legal and political career, he possessed a great passion for his family and heritage.  Both of his parents came to the United States from Croatia in the early 1900s.  His mother, “Minnie” (Lebedina), came from the village of Bobovisce on the island of Brac, Croatia.  His father, Mate Bilandzic (later changed to Bilandic), immigrated from Dicmo, a village near Sinj, Croatia.  He shared his family roots with his wife and son, and often visited Croatia.

Following a peaceful and dignified family funeral service, Justice Bilandic was quietly and humbly buried beside his parents at St. Mary Cemetery.  His wife described him as “a devoted family man [who] also loved Chicago and its people, was proud of his Croatian heritage, and grateful for the opportunities which this country provided to his family.”  He was a gentle soul, a man of integrity, honor, and dignity, who brought gentleness and respect into the fields of government, law, politics, and all aspects of his life.

Michael Misetic

COURT BUILDING NAMED IN HONOR OF MICHAEL BILANDIC - A very important event for the Croatian community of Chicago took place on Friday, March 14, 2003, in the Loop when a main building of the state judicial system was renamed as the Michael A. Bilandic Building.  On this occasion, in the presence of many distinguished city and state officials, family members, and friends of the late Judge Bilandic, the building was dedicated in his honor. Michael Bilandic was and alderman (1969-1976), the mayor of Chicago (1976-1979), head of Appellate Court (1984-1990), chief Justice of Illinois Supreme Court (1994-1997). All of the speakers at the ceremony emphasized three of his essential characteristics: his outstanding career, his integrity and reputation, and his pride in his Croatian heritage. In the name of St. Jerome Parish, Fr. Joe Grbes gave the invocation and benediction. For generations to come, people visiting downtown Chicago will be able to stand before a building that carries the name of a man who spoke of his people with pride and of whom his community can be proud!

Source http://www.stjeromecroatian.org/eng/bilandic.html



One of the two Chichago Indians by Ivan Meštrović, famous Croatian sculptor. They have been carved in Croatia's capital Zagreb.
Photo by Rumi Meštrović, alias Janet Duroc.



 
Michael Anthony Bilandic Receives the Croatian American Bar Association’s 2009 Vinodol Code Award

Miki Tesija of the Croatian American Bar Association presents the 2009 Vinodol Code Award during the May 17, 2010 “Celebrating 170 Years of Croatians in Chicagoland” event to a representative of the family of Hon. Bilandic, Jan Botica Zekich (Hon. Bilandic’s long-time law clerk while he was an Illinois Supreme Court Justice). Photo Courtesy of Malo Selo Photography and Videography (www.maloselo.com)

The Croatian American Bar Association (CABA) is pleased to announce that the late Honorable Michael Anthony Bilandic is the recipient of this year’s CABA
Vinodol Code Award in recognition of his distinguished service on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois and his outstanding contribution to the administration of justice in Illinois.

Justice Bilandic was born on February 13, 1923 in the Bridgeport area of Chicago, Illinois and was one of four children born of his Croatian immigrant parents. His father was from a village near Sinj, Croatia and his mother was from the island of Brac. He attended grammar school at St. Jerome’s Croatian School (class of 1936) and graduated from De La Salle High School in 1940. Following high school, Bilandic left Bridgeport to attend St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota. After graduating, he spent four years as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps during World War II. He then returned to Chicago and attended DePaul University Law School and received his Juris Doctor in 1949 when he began his private practice of law.

Justice Bilandic’s public service began in 1969 when he was elected as an Alderman of Chicago’s influential 11th Ward. In 1970, then Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley appointed Bilandic as a member of the powerful City Council finance committee, and in 1974, Bilandic was named chair of that committee. During his tenure as an alderman, Bilandic was called a “legislative trailblazer” by supporters. He was known for his efforts to protect the environment and was the primary sponsor of an ordinance that banned lead paint and phosphates from detergent. Bilandic also supported the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, a bill that regulated condominium conversions along Lake Michigan.

When Mayor Richard J. Daley passed away in 1976, the Chicago City Council appointed Bilandic as interim mayor and in 1977 he was elected as Chicago’s 40th mayor until 1979. A month after the election, Mayor Bilandic married Heather Morgan and the couple had a son, Michael Morgan.

As mayor of Chicago, Bilandic assisted in the negotiation of labor contract agreements with the city’s grave-diggers, butchers, and members of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra. He is also credited with ending the fifteen year dispute over a crosstown expressway, enabling Chicago to use $1.5 billion of federal money. Bilandic’s initiatives also included arranging low interest mortgage loans insured by the city for middle-income families and organizing the first Chicago Fest, the precursor to the modern day “Taste of Chicago”. An avid runner, Bilandic lent his support to the first Chicago Marathon and initiated the now eighteen mile lakefront running path by designating five miles of an old equestrian trial as a jogging path.

In 1980, Bilandic returned to the private practice of law and in 1984 he was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court. In 1990 he was elected to a ten-year term as a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, serving as chief justice from 1994 to 1997. Reviewing thousands of cases during his tenure on the court, Justice Bilandic wrote over 225 opinions.

After leaving a true legacy of great public service, Justice Bilandic passed away on January 16, 2002. But the late Justice Bilandic was much more than merely the sum of his impressive achievements. He was a man who never forgot his humble roots, and his Croatian heritage was influential in his life. In a February 3, 2003 joint house resolution in which a public building in Chicago was named after him, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senator Emil Jones Jr. said:

Michael Anthony Bilandic was one of the more influential and highly regarded public figures in Chicago ... he was a man of commitment and a loyal Chicagoan; most importantly, he was devoted to his family, faithful to his church, and proud of his Croatian heritage.

He will be remembered not only for his great ambassadorship of Croatian Americans, but also for his dedication to justice for all People of the State of Illinois.

About the Croatian American Bar Association (CABA)
The CABA is an association of Croatian-American lawyers and Croatian lawyers from around the world. For more information, please visit www.CroatianAmericanBar.com. The CABA established the Vinodol Code Award to recognize persons of Croatian descent who have excelled in the practice of law and/or made an outstanding contribution to the law or legal scholarship. The award is named after the Vinodol Code (Vinodolski Zakon) written in 1288—the oldest legal text in Croatian and written in Glagolitic letters.

Source www.croatianamericanbar.com




 
Hrvatska žena, Ogranak 1 u Chicagu osnovan je 27. siječnja 1929. Ostalih 18 ogranaka osnovano je diljem Sjedinjenih Država podupirući crkve, škole, karitativne i kulturne programe, kao i američku vojsku tijekom Drugoga svjetskog rata. Među
utemeljiteljima su Agate Đurak, Klara Škvorc, Vilma Strunjak, Barbara Balija, Rozalija (Kovačević) Kirin, Rozalija (Sedar) Vuksanović, Frances Frkonja, Mary Karačić, Borislav Absac, Ruža Cesar i Magdalena Guldenpfeng.

 
Hrvatska Žena (Croatian Woman), Branch 1 of Chicago founded on January 27, 1929. Another 18 branches were founded throughout the United States supporting churches, schools, charities and cultural programs as well as the American military during World War II. Among the founders were Agate Đurak, Klara Škvorc, Vilma Strunjak, Barbara Balija, Rozalija (Kovačević) Kirin, Rozalija (Sedar) Vuksanović, Frances Frkonja, Mary Karačić, Borislav Absac, Ruža Cesar and Magdalena Guldenpfeng.




Croatian Women society founded in Chicago in 1929. Source: Vladimir Novak



 
Naslovnica hrvatskog dvomjesečnika Hrvatica
osnovanog u Chicagu u 1977. Pokretačke snage u osnivanju bile su Nada Hintermajer. Editi i podupiratelji bili su Zlata Ivezić, Danica Glavaš, Ljiljana Zakarija, Lucija Jukić, Ikica Rosandić-Čuvalo, Mercedes Škegro, Zdravka Bušić, Ivanka Kuzmanović, Marijana Jelača, Vinka Pović, Lilian Simons, Marija Sopta, Olga Ladika-Dizdar i druge.

 
The cover of the Croatian bimonthly magazine Hrvatica (Croatian Woman) founded in Chicago in 1977. The moving force in its founding was Nada Hintermajer. Editors and contributors were Zlata Ivezić, Danica Glavaš, Ljiljana Zakarija, Lucija Jukić, Ikica Rosandić-Čuvalo, Mercedes Škegro, Zdravka Bušić, Ivanka Kuzmanović, Marijana Jelača, Vinka Pović, Lilian Simons, Marija Sopta, Olga Ladika-Dizdar and others.




Michael Bilandić

An accomplished lawyer, Michael Bilandic (1923-2002) is best remembered as a civil servant who served in each of the three branches of government. Bilandic was an alderman for seven years, served as mayor of Chicago for two and a half years, and sat as a justice on both the Appellate and Illinois Supreme Courts. While receiving mixed reviews of his work as an alderman and as mayor, he won his highest praise for his work as a jurist. Bilandic died in 2002 at the age of seventy-eight from a heart rupture.

Born February 13, 1923 to Croatian immigrants, Michael Bilandic grew up in Bridgeport, a south side neighborhood of Chicago. He attended grammar school at St. Jerome's Croatian School and graduated from DeLasalle High School in 1940. In his youth Bilandic developed a strong interest in politics, learning from his neighbor and mentor then-alderman Richard J. Daley. Following high school Bilandic left Bridgeport to attend St. Mary's College in Winona, Minnesota. After graduating he spent four years as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II. Some sources indicate that he fought in the battle of Iwo Jima.

After his military service, Bilandic returned to Chicago where he graduated from DePaul University Law School. He began his legal career in 1949 as a law clerk at the firm where he would become a senior partner, Anixter, Delaney, Bilandic & Piggott. He practiced law as a corporate attorney for twenty-eight years. Bilandic also served as a master in chancery and a special assistant Illinois attorney general.

Bilandic renewed his interest in politics at the same time that he began practicing law. Back in his Bridgeport neighborhood at the request of alderman Daley, Bilandic volunteered for the Democratic Party in the eleventh ward. He increased his involvement in politics in 1955 when he campaigned for Daley's first mayoral race. Fourteen years later in 1969 Mayor Daley invited Bilandic to run for his old aldermanic seat as the eleventh ward incumbent, Matthew Danaher, was seeking to be appointed clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court. Bilandic won by a large margin, becoming the first non Irish-American to hold that seat in decades. The following year, Daley appointed Bilandic as a member of the City Council finance committee, reportedly the most powerful committee of the Chicago City Council. In 1974, when Alderman Thomas Keane, the former chair of the finance committee, was indicted on fraud charges, Daley named Bilandic to replace Keane as chair.

Bilandic's tenure as an alderman has been both lauded and criticized. Dubbed a "legislative trailblazer" by supporters, he is remembered for his efforts to protect the environment. Most notably, Bilandic was the primary sponsor of an ordinance that banned lead paint and phosphates from detergent. Bilandic also supported the Lakefront Protection Ordinance, a bill that regulated condominium conversions, and he developed an ordinance that helped clarify and explain city planning. Detractors, however, describe Bilandic's policies as conservative, conceived to support the Chicago business community.

When Mayor Daley died in 1976 the Chicago City Council, after significant debate, chose Bilandic to sit as interim mayor. A special election was to be held in six months to elect a mayor to finish the remaining two years of Daley's term. Bilandic accepted the interim position announcing that he would not run for mayor in the special election, though he quickly changed his mind once he took office. In June 1977 Bilandic was elected as Chicago's fortieth mayor. One month after the election Bilandic married Heather Morgan, director of the Chicago Council on Fine Arts and daughter of a Chicago businessman. While Bilandic was mayor the couple had a son, Michael Morgan.

During his two and a half year term as mayor, Bilandic was principal in the resolution of a number of controversial issues regarding the city's development. Bilandic assisted in the negotiation of labor contract agreements with the city's grave-diggers, butchers, and members of the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra. He is also credited with ending the fifteen year dispute over a crosstown expressway, enabling Chicago to use $1.5 billion of federal money. Bilandic's initiatives included arranging low interest mortgage loans insured by the city for middle-income families and organizing the first Chicago Fest. An avid runner, Bilandic lent his support to the first Chicago Marathon and initiated the now eighteen mile lakefront running path by designating five miles of an old equestrian trial as a jogging path.

Though described by Chicago Sun Times columnist Mike Royko as "Mayor Bland," Bilandic's term as mayor had some colorful moments including an ongoing public battle with politician Jane Byrne and a major snowstorm. Bilandic fired Byrne from her Daley appointed position as commissioner of Consumer Sales, Weights and Measurements when she criticized the Mayor's role in negotiations with the taxi companies that resulted in increased fares. Bilandic also used his influence to remove Byrne as co-chair of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization's Central Committee. Subsequently beginning in December 1978 and continuing into February 1979, a record seven feet of snow fell in Chicago coupled with twenty-four days of sub-zero temperatures. The city administration was highly criticized for its snow removal efforts and its handling of transportation issues. The most prominent transportation failing occurred during the first weeks of January when a blizzard caused O'Hare International Airport to close and interfered with the operation of the Chicago Transportation Authority's elevated train lines. Critics blamed Bilandic for the CTA decision to bypass a number of L stations on the south side of Chicago where a majority of African American passengers were stranded. In the administration's efforts to plow the city streets, it directed residents to move their cars to school parking lots it erroneously reported were plowed. For many Chicagoans the difficulties of the storm were exacerbated by Bilandic's television appearances where the Mayor congratulated the city on its snow removal operations.

Over accusations of election fraud, on February 27, 1979 Jane Byrne defeated Bilandic in the mayoral democratic primary. Byrne's campaign during the last month before the primary was negative and aggressive, causing Bilandic to publicly describe himself as a martyr, referencing the early Christians and the persecuted Jews. In April Byrne was elected the first woman Mayor of Chicago by a landslide vote. Some argue that Byrne's election marked the end of "machine politics" in Chicago.

Bilandic returned to the law following the election. He worked in private practice until 1984 when he was elected to the Illinois Appellate Court. Winning praise for his work on the bench, Bilandic's supporters posit that being a jurist was his true calling. In 1990 he was elected to a ten-year term as a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court, serving as chief justice from 1994 to 1997. Reviewing thousands of cases during his tenure on the court, Justice Bilandic wrote over 225 opinions. Three of his decisions involved high profile issues in death penalty cases. In the 1995 Verneal Jimerson case the court unanimously ruled that the defendant was entitled to a new trial because, the "knowing use of perjured testimony," Chief Justice Bilandic ruled, "constitutes a violation of due process." Two years later in the Marilyn Mulero case in another unanimous opinion, Justice Bilandic wrote that the defendant's motion to suppress a written statement to the police could not be used as evidence in the penalty phase of the case to imply that the defendant was trying to cover up her actions. In 1999 Justice Bilandic granted an extension of a hearing to determine whether Anthony Porter, who was convicted of murder, was mentally competent to be put to death. The extension was based on evidence gathered by Northwestern University professor David Protess and five of his students that supported the defendant's claim that he was wrongfully convicted.

Among Justice Bilandic's other opinions were landmark decisions in health care issues, grandparent's visitation rights, and single subject legislation. In one case filed against Chicago HMO, Justice Bilandic reinstated claims rejected by an appellate court decision that alleged that the insurance provider negligently assigned an excessive number of cases to one doctor, ultimately resulting in negligent treatment and injury to an infant. The court's rulings deemed that HMOs could be found liable for both medical malpractice and institutional negligence. Bilandic also wrote the opinion that severely limited the rights of grandparents under an Illinois statute that allowed grandparents to visit a grandchild over the objections of the parents. Unless the parents are deemed to be unfit, Bilandic ruled that they are presumed to be acting in the child's best interest and the state may not interfere with their decisions. Bilandic's decision in the case Johnson v. Edgar also sought to curb excessive state action, by forcing the legislature to follow the constitutional mandate to include only a single subject when passing legislation.

Throughout his career as a jurist, Bilandic won high praise from the legal community for his administrative work in the justice system. He restructured the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, was involved in broad changes in the civil discovery rules, and was an advocate of mandatory arbitration. Bilandic supported the development of court ordered major civil case mediation and served as a liaison to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. In 2001, one year after he retired from the bench, the Executive Committee of the Center for Analysis of Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems (CAADRS) honored Bilandic for his substantial contribution to the state's alternative dispute resolution systems.

After retiring from the bench in 2000, Bilandic stayed active in both the legal community, serving on the Chicago Bar Association Board of Managers, and in Chicago politics. In September 2001 the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Commission was deadlocked on the issue of remapping the state legislative districts for the 118 House and 598 senate districts. Following the state constitutional provision for breaking a tie vote, Secretary of State Jesse White pulled Bilandic's name out of a stovepipe hat thus appointing him to serve as the ninth member of the Commission. Bilandic cast the deciding vote in favor of the democratic map that will remain in effect until the new census is taken in 2010. The Republican challenge to the process was denied by the Illinois Supreme Court as it was ten years earlier when the Democrats challenged the winning Republican map. In 1992, however, Justice Bilandic was not the deciding vote, but a member of the Supreme Court. In that case Bilandic dissented from the majority decision to uphold the map reasoning that because the creation of legislative districts affects the voting rights of state citizens, "when the establishment of legislative districts is accomplished in an arbitrary manner, the right of Illinois citizens to due process of law is violated."

Bilandic remained physically active to his death January 15, 2002. On Friday, January 11 the retired jurist engaged in a thirty minute swim. Saturday morning at two o'clock in the morning he suffered a mild heart attack. Through he was scheduled for a triple by-pass surgery on January 16, he died the day before of a heart rupture. Bilandic was seventy-eight.

Source www.uic.edu



Christmas Around the World - Croatian Teenagers speak of their tradtions during exhibit
by Museum of Science and Industry - yearly Christams Tree display.
Girls reflect on wishes for peace, harmony and well wishes to Mayor of Chicago - Mayor Bilandic, a Croatian.
The year was 1978!

Distinguished Croatians in the USA

We express our gratitude to Mr. Ante Glibota for drawing our attention to the name of Michael Bilandic.

Formated for CROWN by Darko Žubrinić
Distributed by www.Croatia.org . This message is intended for Croatian Associations/Institutions and their Friends in Croatia and in the World. The opinions/articles expressed on this list do not reflect personal opinions of the moderator. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, please delete or destroy all copies of this communication and please, let us know!


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