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Leon Mathis Despres (February 2, 1908 - May 6, 2009) was an Americanmarker attorney and politician. He was best known as a long-time alderman in Chicagomarker, where he regularly disagreed with then-mayor Richard J. Daley, often engaging in loud arguments and debates on the assembly floor.

Background

A native of Chicagomarker, Despres received his undergraduate and law degrees in 1927 and 1929, respectively, from the University of Chicagomarker, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, before beginning a legal practice.

Career

In April 1955, Despres was elected to the Chicago City Council from the city's Hyde Parkmarker neighborhood, as alderman of the 5th ward. Serving until 1975, Despres gained fame as an independent Democrat, consistently opposing the policies of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Frequently on the short end of 49-1 votes, Despres became known as the "liberal conscience of Chicago." Because of his strong advocacy of civil rights and open housing, Despres also became known as "the lone Negro on the City Council," even though he was White and the council had six black alderman allied with the mayor.

In his final years Despres lived in Hyde Park and remained active in civic life. In 2005, he received the Benton Medal from the University of Chicago. Up until his death, Despres still maintained an office at the Chicago firm of Despres, Schwartz, and Geoghegan, managed by longtime colleague, Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan.

Death

Despres died of heart failure in his Hyde Parkmarker home on May 6 2009 at the age of 101.

References




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