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Former congressman, judge Abner Mikva is dead at 90

Tuesday, July 05, 2016
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lynn Sweet

Democratic icon Abner Mikva — a retired federal judge, congressman and White House counsel — has died. He was 90.

Mikva, whose latest cause was championing the stalled nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court, died Monday, a source told the Sun-Times.

Mikva started a political career rooted in Chicago’s independent political movement that produced a unique resume, culminating in 2014 with the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“As a University of Chicago student, Abner Mikva stopped by the local Democratic headquarters and asked to volunteer,” President Obama said back in 2014. “I love this story. A committeeman asked who sent you. And Ab said, nobody. And the committeeman said, we don’t want nobody nobody sent. That’s Chicago for you.”

Obama recalled how Mikva was interested in hiring him to be a law clerk when he was finishing Harvard Law School and Mikva was a federal judge based in Washington, D.C. After the ceremony in 2014, Mikva explained more of the story.

“Word came back he was going to run for office,” Mikva recalled. “I didn’t know he had any previous experience in Illinois. And I thought, ‘Boy, has he got a lot to learn. You just don’t go back to Chicago and plant your flag.”

Mikva served in all three branches of government: He was a representative in Springfield and Washington, a federal judge for 25 years and White House counsel under Bill Clinton.

One of the many idealists drawn to Mikva was Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) who got her start ringing doorbells for Mikva.

“When people talk about what should be the standard in public service, Abner Mikva’s name comes up among Republicans, Democrats, Independents,” she said. “He’s that kind of person, known for his integrity.”

Schakowsky cited theMikva Challenge, a program to get teens excited about politics, named in honor of Mikva and his wife Zoe.

“He clearly takes this role as mentor and role model very, very seriously,” she said.

Contributing: Lynn Sweet, Neil Steinberg, Stefano Esposito



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