Fred Hampton led the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party, until his death in 1969 — killed by Chicago Police officers under the direction of the Cook County State’s Attorney.
Originally, police claimed Hampton had fired shots at them.
However, his mother, Iberia, and other family members fought a 13-year legal battle to establish the truth: Hampton was assassinated, shot in his bed.
Iberia Hampton’s Oct. 16 death prompted the Cook County Board of Commissioners to recognize her Wednesday — citing “her fight to preserve her son’s memory.”
The government that killed her son was now honoring her — for making it acknowledge what it had done.
A few commissioners made brief speeches, including board president Toni Preckwinkle.
“I’m a history teacher, and I’ve always believed the murder of Fred Hampton was a terrible blot on our city’s history, one of those disgraceful incidents we have struggled to overcome over the years,” she said.
The slaying — involving a black activist and white law enforcement officers — was racially charged, and only one of the commissioners who spoke about it was white: John Daley.
“To the Hampton family, I would like to offer my deepest sympathy,” he said.
The officers who shot Fred Hampton worked for Daley’s father, Richard J. Daley, who was mayor at the time. The elder Daley was also the political patron of state’s attorney Ed Hanrahan, who ordered the raid on Hampton’s home.
Later, John Daley told a reporter he was 12 when Fred Hampton died, and his memory of the incident was vague — except for how it played out in Democratic politics.
“I remember the issue,” he said. “I remember it moreso later on, coming up in the Hanrahan campaign. Ed Hanrahan lost. And they re-slated someone else.”
Fred Hampton’s elder brother, Bill, was at the County Building for the occasion. Asked how it felt to see this day, he said, “Better late than never.”
He said it twice. First with a quiet laugh, then with a sigh.
Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @danweissmann.