South Water Purification Plant Renamed For Mayor Eugene Sawyer | WBEZ
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South Water Purification Plant Renamed For Mayor Eugene Sawyer

Rainbow Beach Park visitors may stumble upon a new landmark: The South Water Purification Plant has been renamed for the late Eugene Sawyer, the city’s second African-American mayor. 

The new name, along with a blue and silver sign, debuted Monday. The ceremony included the former mayor’s son, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th.

Roderick Sawyer and Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, a notorious City Hall historian, proposed the change this year.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, sticks his head through the new sign for the Eugene Sawyer Water Purification Plant, named after his late father, a former mayor of Chicago. Lauren Chooljian/WBEZ

In 1987, the City Council selected Eugene Sawyer to replace Mayor Harold Washington, who died of a heart attack.

Roderick Sawyer said the transition was a particularly difficult time for his family.

“I spent that next week continuously with my dad, answering the phones (and) staying by his side, because the last thought in his head was … being mayor of the city of Chicago,” Roderick Sawyer said. “He was more concerned about how we were gonna heal the city.”

Before getting into politics, Eugene Sawyer, who studied chemistry at Alabama State University, worked in the Chicago Water Department. His diverse resume made the water facility a “fitting tribute” to the former mayor, Burke said.

“Gene Sawyer was a man of integrity, quiet dignity and great achievement,” Burke said.

Lauren Chooljian is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @laurenchooljian.

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