Chicago's feisty ex-mayor Byrne is dead

Former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, 81, died on Friday. She was buried this morning.

She was the woman who did what, when I was growing up, seemed impossible: defeated an incumbent Machine mayor, Michael Bilandic. and won the Democratic mayoral primary and the office on the Fifth Floor of City Hall as an independent.

She had more than the ordinary amount of help from God. A snow storm of historic proportions paralyzed the city just before the primary, and Bilandic- who had been elected by the City Council to fill out Mayor Richard J. Daley's term when Da Mare collapsed in his doctor's waiting room and died of a massive heart attack- did something his legendary predecessor would have been too astute to even consider: ordered the CTA's elevated trains to bypass the stops in the predominantly African-American wards surrounding the Loop and go directly to the white neighborhoods beyond. The city's black residents were understandably outraged, and Byrne- a disgruntled former department head under the legendary Daley- was suddenly "Da Mare" herself.

Byrne was defeated for re-election by a member of the suddenly aroused Chicago African-American community, Harold Washington.

May she rest in peace.