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Nearly 101 And Still Speaking Truth To Power

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Nearly 101 And Still Speaking Truth To Power

Recent headlines ask questions about the moral fiber of our city's politicians. But Chicago history is filled with public officials who've asked “what's in it for me?”

That does not include Leon “Len” Despres. He's been called “the conscience of the city”, and “the protector of the lakefront”. The late Studs Terkel called him “my north star”. As an attorney and an alderman, Despres has tirelessly fought for equal rights and organized labor. The lone independent voice in Chicago's city council for 20 years, Despres' speeches would cause Richard J Daley to turn beet red. And more than 30 years after retiring from public office, Leon Despres is still fighting for what he believes in. His friend, journalist Kenan Heise documented those battles in his book, “Chicago Afternoons With Leon—99 ½ Years Old and Looking Forward”.
I spoke with Heise almost 1 year ago, and I wondered if Despres is feeling philosophical, or is still as passionate about the battles he's waged for nearly a century.

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