Looking back at when race clouded City Hall

"But so what?" she said. "The whole thing's over anyway. It's finished. I know what they're going to say. They don't understand what this city is about. Sawyer and the rest think they're living in the past."

Grimshaw knew what it was about. She'd helped bring it about. And she knew what was coming. Daley was coming.

What happened after Washington's death is that two African-American camps were formed almost immediately and ripped each other's heads off.

Sawyer, who had marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in his college days, was quickly portrayed by his rival, Ald. Tim Evans, 4th, as an Uncle Tom, a tool of the white guys. Evans, who'd spent his youth marching with his Chicago machine boss, was cast as the hero of the independents and progressives.

Evans' slogan at the time was "No Deals." And at a Washington memorial rally — actually a pro-Evans campaign rally attended by thousands at the University of Illinois at Chicago — in that emotionally charged vacuum after Washington's death, black politics was broken.

Vernon Jarrett, a friend of Washington's and a columnist at the Sun-Times, stood before the crowd and portrayed Sawyer in the most vicious terms, as a puppet of white racists, as one of the African militiamen who killed black children.

Jarrett told the crowd that African-American aldermen who supported Sawyer were like the Ku Klux Klan.

"Treat those black enemies like you treat the Ku Klux Klan," Jarrett said.

It got worse. A few days later, Sawyer was installed as mayor by white politicians. To counter the portrayal as an Uncle Tom, he brought into government supporters of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and that sparked charges of black anti-Semitism.

It was over. And it broke the heart of Lu Palmer, one of the true initiators of the Washington movement. I considered Lu a friend, and he was never the same afterward.

"We had a black mayor," he said of Sawyer. "And now, we've got Daley."

Tim Evans of the "No Deal" slogan prospered. He's now chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court. Sawyer died broke.

And you know what happened to Daley. He healed things.