CHICAGO — Abner J. Mikva, awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2014, died on July 4 in Chicago at age 90.
Long known in Chicago and Washington political and legal circles as a liberal reform leader and a man of unassailable integrity, Mikva successfully bucked Chicago’s Democratic political machine when he was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1956 as an independent reform-minded Democrat, and later served as a Democratic congressman in the late 1960s and 70s.
In 1979, he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and was the Court’s Chief Judge when he left to become White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Since World War II, perhaps no other American has served at high levels in all three branches of the federal government.
Brian Brady, the national director of the Mikva Challenge told WGN Morning News that Mikva was “an unassailable integrity, intelligence and compassion. He was the kind of public servant that we so often want in our public life.”
U.S. Sen Dick Durbin spoke fondly of Mikva: “Time and again, he was willing to stick his neck out a mile and stand up for things he believed it, even when it was grossly unpopular. He was a man of principal. And for those who are cynical and despairing of those in politics, Abner Mikva’s like in public service was proof positive that sometimes the good guys do finish first.”