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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
shared his family roots with his wife and son, and often
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.
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!)