Chicago’s first and, to date, only female mayor Jane Byrne has died, according to reports.
Byrne was 81 years old and had suffered from health problems in recent years, including a hospitalization following a stroke in 2013.
Byrne served as the mayor of Chicago from 1979 until 1983. She defeated incumbent Michael Bilandic, who had been considered part of the city’s “Democratic machine,” and was succeeded in office by Harold Washington.
Earlier this year, Byrne made a rare public appearance at a Chicago ceremony commemorating the city’s Circle Interchange being renamed in her honor. The City Council also moved to rename Water Tower Park after Byrne this summer.
Byrne’s legacy as mayor included a tough stance on gun control and the spearheading of popular Chicago attractions like the Taste of Chicago and the redevelopment of Navy Pier. Byrne also appointed the first black superintendent of Chicago Public Schools and was the first mayor to participate in the city’s Gay Pride Parade.
Reactions to Byrne’s death came rolling in Friday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Byrne as “a great trailblazer” and “a Chicago icon.”
Other Chicago-connected elected officials and community leaders mourned Byrne’s death:
Rev. Jesse Jackson statement on Jane Byrne: pic.twitter.com/E0i5jGFSap
— HuffPost Chicago (@HuffPostChicago) November 14, 2014
Jane Byrne leaves a legacy of tireless service to Chicago that will never be forgotten. She will be missed. pic.twitter.com/iuwzQZjHpb
— Governor Pat Quinn (@GovernorQuinn) November 14, 2014
As a young City Hall reporter, I often parried with Mayor Jane Byrne. But she was never dull; an indelible part of Chicago history. RIP.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 14, 2014
— Dan Lopez (@4danlopez) November 14, 2014
I’m a history teacher by profession, and I know that Jane Byrne will have a significant place in this history of our great City.
— Toni Preckwinkle (@ToniPreckwinkle) November 14, 2014
Chicago's 1st female mayor will be remembered for her guts, authenticity & fierce love for our city - she was one of kind #JaneByrne
— Bridget Gainer (@BridgetGainer) November 14, 2014
Naming an interchange after Jane Byrne falls far short of giving her the recognition she deserves as Chicago's female mayor. RIP
— John Fritchey (@johnfritchey) November 14, 2014