Michael Anthony Bilandic



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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! (Click here for text of Resolution!)

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