William “Bill” J. Grimshaw, passed away on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, after a long illness. For many years the 77 year old was known as an expert on Chicago politics.
Grimshaw was born on May 18, 1938, to Elmer J. Grimshaw, a factory worker, and Violet Teppo Grimshaw, who was born in America to Finnish immigrants. Grimshaw and his younger brother Alan were raised on the 3100 block of North Clifton Avenue in Chicago. He graduated from Hawthorne Elementary School in 1952, and attended Lane Technical High School. He transferred to Lake View High School, where he discovered his love of art but was otherwise bored and unchallenged. He dropped out. After a brief stint in the U.S. Army, which included an assignment in Orleans, France, he returned to Chicago and enrolled in Wright Junior College. He was admitted to the University of Chicago (U. of C.) in 1962.
When Grimshaw went to the University of Chicago to earn a bachelors degree, he was determined not to forget his working class roots. As he went on to achieve professional success — as a renowned expert on urban politics, political campaign strategist, department chairman, and published author — his immutable concern for the “have nots” guided everything he did.
While at the U. of C., Grimshaw met a lovely young Black woman named Jacquelyne D. “Jacky” Lane. Despite the social challenges of being an interracial couple, Grimshaw and Jacky married in 1964. Their daughter Kimberly was born later that year. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, Grimshaw attended the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, where he earned his M.A. in 1971, and PhD. in 1978. His thesis, Union Rule in the Schools: Big City Politics in Transformation, was his first book, published in 1979. While he was writing his thesis, Grimshaw worked in the Governor’s Office under Gov. Dan Walker. Grimshaw and Jacky’s son Christopher was born in 1975.
In 1978, Grimshaw became an associate professor at Illinois Institute of Technology, where he would teach until he retired in 2008. He served as chairman of IIT Social Sciences Department from 1990 to 2002. Grimshaw was a visiting associate professor in Political Science at the U. of C. in 1986.
“Bill’s work was exemplary in combining an understanding of the big-picture, theoretical issues with the practical consideration of how politics actually works, and how that intersection impacts upon the lives of those subject to the decisions and actions of our leaders. Always, without fail, Bill would bring a discussion about the foibles of Chicago politics and politicians back to the questions of justice and fairness that he cared so much about,” said One of Grimshaw’s U. of C. students, Ray Lodato, senior survey director for National Opinion Research Center. “That is, unfortunately, rare among academics, but Grimshaw was a rare breed.”
Grimshaw played a key strategic role in Harold Washington’s successful 1983 campaign for mayor, which began in the Grimshaws’ dining room. According to U. of C Sociology Professor Terry Clark, who said, “A key concept in many Harold Washington speeches was ‘fairness’—a moralistically powerful but sufficiently vague term that could apply to grievances of women, blacks, Hispanics, and gays—and any other person who felt traditional Chicago politics was ‘unfair.’ Bill was pivotal in developing the concept of reform in a new direction, in Chicago and elsewhere, by helping Harold Washington reframe these issues.”
Following Washington’s election, Grimshaw and Clark embarked on a decades-long oral history project documenting the competing perspectives of key actors in Chicago politics during that tumultuous time. These interviews informed Grimshaw’s highly acclaimed book Bitter Fruit: Black Politics and the Chicago Machine, 1931-1991, was published in 1995.
In addition to his love of Chicago politics, Grimshaw was a man of many passions: detective novels, French cooking, Impressionist art, European travel, Blues, Jazz and Classical music, and sports – namely the Bears, Bulls, and Cubs. He was a fixture in Hyde Park’s favorite breakfast spots, including Valois, Salonica, and the Medici.
Grimshaw is survived by his brother Alan (Sybil), wife Jacky, daughter Kimberly (Christopher Bolton), son Christopher (Abigail Kramer), four grandchildren (Cameron, Sophia and Isabella Bolton, and Rafael Grimshaw), and a nephew.
There will be a celebration of Bill Grimshaw’s life and legacy on Saturday, May 28, at 10:30 a.m., at Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th St. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Grimshaw’s memory to the University of Chicago Odyssey Scholarship Challenge (odyssey.uchicago.edu).
For more information, contact Kim Grimshaw Bolton, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 708- 785-9430.