Oct 27, 2023 - News

Chicago activist Marilyn Katz dies at 78

Photo of a man and woman posing for the camera

Marilyn Katz during a 2017 interview with Justin Kaufmann at the Tribune Tower. Photo: Courtesy of WGN Radio

Writer, activist, and political consultant Marilyn Katz died Thursday morning, ABC 7 reports. She was 78.

The big picture: Katz played a significant role in Chicago politics, organizing historic protests and helping Harold Washington become mayor. She continued to work as political consultant right up until her death.

  • "Marilyn 'made good trouble,' and reveled in it," ABC 7 commentator Laura Washington, who worked in Washington's administration, tells Axios.
  • "Marilyn was a fierce force, a non-stop political locomotive who drove countless causes in Chicago, and well beyond."

Context: Katz began her political career in Chicago in 1966 as part of the Chicago Freedom Movement. As a college student, she joined Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on his historic march in Marquette Park, where counter-protesters threw rocks and fireworks at the marchers.

  • After that, she helped organize protests during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 and was part of the media team for Washington on his 1983 campaign.

What she said: "People always talk about misery creating dissent and change," Katz told Justin on his WGN radio show in 2017. "That's not true. It's the possibility of something better, real change that propels people into action."

Zoom in: The Washington campaign started what was a fruitful political campaign career, working with Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, as well as several down-ballot candidates.

Katz never let go of her activism, helping organize women's marches in Chicago after President Trump's inauguration in 2017.

What they're saying: "Every mayor had a relationship with Marilyn," Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) tells Axios. "She was just a wonderful person."


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