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This just in… Larry McKeon passes away

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* 11:11 am - Former state Rep. Larry McKeon (D-Chicago) passed away last night after suffering a stroke, according to an announcement on the House floor a few minutes ago.

…Adding… Bernie profiled Larry just last Sunday. Read it here.

And before the governor sends out his press release lauding McKeon’s memory, perhaps he should first commit to fixing this problem as a fitting tribute to the former legislator…

McKeon also called it a “tragedy” that, after pushing his first years in the General Assembly to reduce a backlog of discrimination cases before the Illinois Department of Human Rights, he believes there is a backlog now, partly because of lack of needed staff.

“I seriously question the competence at the senior level” of the department, he added, including “the director’s ability to effectively manage.”

* 1:24 pm - The Tribune story is now online

An Army veteran and former lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, McKeon came to Chicago in the 1980s to pursue a degree in social service administration.

He worked as a director at United Charities and became involved with gay activist groups, leading to his run for political office. In 1992, he was hired as executive director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, serving as Mayor Richard Daley’s liaison to gay and lesbian leaders in the city.

McKeon was elected to the House in 1996 by voters in the North Side’s 34th District. During that campaign, he acknowledged being HIV-positive.

One of his major legislative priorities was to expand gay rights. In 2005, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed into law a measure that added sexual orientation to the state’s human rights act banning discrimination against gays and lesbians by landlords, real estate agents, employers and lenders.

posted by Rich Miller
Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:12 am


  1. very sorry to hear that-I didn’t agree with him much, but you knew where he stood-and that’s admirable,especially for an illinois politico

    Comment by gray wolf Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:28 am

  2. I had the great honor of testifying next to Rep. Larry McKeon in a Mass Transit Committee Hearing on the CTA. Having studied up on his courage over the years, he was a great inspiration and helped settle my nerves for a first-time testimony.

    He will be missed by many here in Chicago, as he now caravans peacefully into worlds beyond.

    Comment by silentk Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:34 am

  3. What a gracious and kind man…I will miss his quiet but strong presence around the capitol.

    Comment by Oh please... Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:37 am

  4. He was just a good guy, working in a place that certainly could use as many good guys as possible. Rest in peace, Larry.

    Comment by Linus Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:39 am

  5. Larry was suppoesd to come over for a steak dinner last year, but he couldn’t make it. We never got around to rescheduling, but talked about going out on my boat as soon as the weather warmed up.

    Lesson: Don’t put off until tomorrow.

    Comment by Rich Miller Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:40 am

  6. He’s always been a first class man. I’ll miss Larry very much.

    Comment by Craig Gernhardt Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:45 am

  7. I echo gray wolf’s comments. I didn’t agree with him much but he always responded to my phone calls and letters. My condolences to his family & friends.

    Comment by Ravenswood Right Winger Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 11:59 am

  8. I always enjoyed talking with Larry during and after his time in the House. He had a real ability to strip away the rhetoric and get to the nitty-gritty of the issues that were being debated. He was passionate about his causes and dedicated to them to the very end. We talked several times over the past couple weeks out by the rail and although I could see that he was not feeling well, I admired the way he stayed on the job no matter what. I will miss him terribly. God speed, Larry.

    Comment by Jak Tichenor Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 12:00 pm

  9. RIP, Larry. Thanks for everything!

    Comment by Bill Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 12:27 pm

  10. I hope he is remembered for his outstanding work in amending the Illinois Human Rights Act to ban discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. I salute the efforts of this brave warrior.

    Comment by If It Walks Like a Duck... Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 12:38 pm

  11. Very sad. Such an honorable person.

    Comment by 2for2 Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 1:16 pm

  12. He was a kind and thoughtful lawmaker and someone whose loved ones can be proud of what he did in Springfield.

    Comment by deloris Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 1:23 pm

  13. Larry will be sorely missed as a good and decent member of the house. Few folks realize in addition to his service in the U.S. Army he was also a member of the command staff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. He rose from Deputy Sheriff to the rank of Commander during his service there.

    An extensive career in public service which was as diverse as the district he represented!

    Comment by prairiestatedem Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 1:23 pm

  14. I liked Larry. Unlike most of the statehouse _ kissers he treated everybody the same with dignity and respect for their opinions even if he felt the exact opposite.

    Comment by nino Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 1:48 pm

  15. As a constituent I didn’t appreciate his “retiring” early so that a successor could be handpicked by the committeemen. That happens far too often in these north lakefront areas and for that matter in other parts of the state.

    That being said he had a diverse and interesting life. Soldier, cop, legislator. Not a typical path to elected office. As for his work on the Illinois Human Rights Act I salute him.

    We’ve come along way in this country in our treatment of many different groups during my lifetime. Discriminating based on sexual preference is silly and wrong. One day I hope we can get beyond the stupid cultural wedge issues and deal with the real issues that harm this nation.

    I am not holding my breath.

    Comment by irishpirate Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 1:50 pm

  16. I was fortunate enough to staff Larry briefly while he was in the House. He treated everyone with respect and honor. A truely decent man who made an impact on my life.

    Comment by Anonymous Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 2:24 pm

  17. McKeon was known as The Champion of human rights for gay Americans, but was an equally forceful champion for the rights of ALL Americans, embodying the broad principles of the Civil Rights movement: an injustice to one is an injustice to all.

    McKeon fought for the rights of working families as chair of the House Labor Committee, carrying much of the Democratic agenda on his shoulders.

    He also spoke eloquently from the House floor on the need to end discrimination against Latinos and African Americans, and co-sponsored measures to abolish our broken death penalty system, require police to videotape homicide interrogations, and give ex-offenders a chance to lead a productive life.

    And he fought for women’s rights, co-sponsoring legislation to require insurance companies to cover contraceptives and protecting victims of domestic violence.

    What I liked most about Larry was that he was righteous, but not self-righteous. He had a quiet outer demeanor but forceful core values. He didn’t have to raise his voice in debate, because when he spoke, people on both sides of the aisle listened.

    Hope the bass are jumpin’ in Heaven, Larry.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 3:04 pm

  18. I had the honor of knowing Larry for almost 25 years, and he became part of my family….sharing Thanksgivings, Christmas and other holiday’s as well as working with him to combat discrimination of all types.

    Larry was an advocate for all people that were disenfranchised, and had a keen ability to listen to issues and develop sound public policy to try and address the inequities that people faced, be they gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or queer, or Asian, Indian, Muslam, American Indian, Vietnamese, vistims of domestic violence or racism of any kind.

    I spoke with Larry just a few weeks ago, and he seemed happy, and excited that the session would be coming to an end soon, so that he and Squiggy and Hillary could “hit the road” and go fishing. I am sorry that he wasn’t able to do that, but pleased that after all of his health issues, he did not suffer at the end…we should all be so lucky.

    Comment by Laird Petersen Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 5:05 pm

  19. Larry didn’t “pass away” he died. I am sure he would have preferred the latter.

    Comment by The Fox Wednesday, May 14, 08 @ 10:26 pm

  20. I had the privilege of working for Larry for all of his Legislative years. He was a very easy man to work for, not demanding but efficient. From a secretary’s point of view, he was very “trainable”. For a time, he believed everything I told him.

    He was a “boss” first, and always my friend. We saw each other through a few ups and down with health issues and while his were more serious, he rarely complained. I shall miss his sense of humor and his hearty laugh but most of all I will miss the man!

    Comment by lost Thursday, May 15, 08 @ 10:27 am

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