Former 5th Ward alderman dies

Former Evanston Alderman Rochelle Whyte-Washington, 84, died Saturday. She had represented Evanston's 5th Ward from 1989 to 1993.

The decision by voters to reduce the City Council's size from 18 to nine aldermen led to her departure from the council, when she lost a battle to continue to represent the 5th Ward in 1993 to the ward's other incumbent alderman, Joe Kent. She also ran against Kent and lost in 2001.

In one incident during her term, she walked out of a screening of a public service announcement approved by the city's Human Relations Commission, objecting to its portrayal of black gang members as being worse than Nazi skinheads and Ku Klux Klansmen.

In a profile published by the Daily Northwestern in 2002, Whyte-Washington recalled working as a nurse's aide after graduating from Evanston Township High School, then attending beauty school and working as a manicurist for more than 20 years.

She also worked as a travel agent, running her own agency.

In her 1993 campaign she told the Chicago Tribune the major issues in the ward were gangs and drugs and that more grass-roots organizations were needed in the ward.

"We need more black people working with young people," she told the paper.

She took that message to heart and in the years after leaving the Council worked on community improvement by launching the Evanston Westside Community Organization, which provided general educational development classes and other programs.

Whyte-Washington raised four children of her own, including two she and her husband Sidney adopted, and also cared for a granddaughter and a great-nephew.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says she was a niece to former Alderman Edna Summers, 5th Ward, who died in 2001, and a cousin to former Alderman Mike Summers, 5th Ward, who died in 2000.

She was also a cousin of current Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.

Services are pending. Bobkiewicz says flags at city offices will be flown at half staff from Tuesday through Thursday in her honor.

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