Suderman asks the question in The Defender.
I worked for the Army in Germany during Washington's years. I missed his whole era. I came home one Thanksgiving and spent a Saturday riding the 'L' (a favorite pastime) and visiting Bookstores. I was heading for Armitage to the Guild Bookstore (then on Halstead) and remember being shocked by the new construction from North Ave to Armitage.
But what really surprized me was seeing African American carpenters working on the sites. Guys with tool belts and hammers hanging on their sides. Not guys relegated to chipping the old bricks or doing the mud work. You just hadn't seen blacks in the trades before in Chicago. I realized what Washington had done to break segregation in the work place.
I think only people over a certain age can appreciate how different things were then and now. How deeply segregated work was and how Chicago lagged the rest of the country; and only caught up, when dragged kicking and screaming, during Washington's years.
He didn't seem the sort to do it. He just seemed a typical Chicago Pol before he won.
Suderman writes on him and speculates on whether another Washington is out there.
"[Washington] was just a remarkable person," said former alderman Leon Despres. For 20 years Despres was one of the city's most vocal opponents of the corruption and excesses of the fabled Chicago Democratic Machine, run by Mayor Richard J. Daley.I have a feeling despite Despres's age, his eye sight is sharp, and there are no likely successors.
Despres and a handful of others championed African-American and progressive causes long before Washington, who once was a machine stalwart, made his mark on the political scene.
Now, nearly 20 years after Washington's death, Despres, the former Fifth Ward alderman, doesn't see any likely successor.
"I look for him all the time," said Despres, now 98, whose wife, Marion, encouraged Washington to enter student politics while he was enrolled at Roosevelt University.
"Washington was a singular politician," echoed Washington's former deputy press secretary, Laura Washington, a journalist and college professor. "He was one of the most brilliant and politically artful elected officials I have ever covered."
Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said it was Washington who inspired him to go into politics. "I don't know if there will be another Harold Washington," he said. "There isn't anyone out there who is as charismatic as he was."
But Davis, who worked closely with Washington, said the legend of Washington has outgrown the man. "I knew Harold before he was mayor, and he wasn't all that charismatic before."