After the war, Washington received a G.E.D. diploma in 1946, awarded after military service, then headed off to college. He earned a bachelor's degree from Roosevelt University in 1949. Continuing his studies, Washington enrolled in law school at Northwestern University. He was the only black man in his class and completed his law degree in 1952 and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1953 and commenced practice in Chicago.
In 1965, Washington won election to the Illinois House of Representatives. He served the city's 26th District for roughly a decade, supporting legislation to advance equality. Washington also sought to make the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. a statement holiday.
During his time in the legislature, Washington ran into one serious legal problem. He was convicted of tax evasion for not filling tax returns for several years. For his crime, Washington spent 36 days in jail in 1972. He became a state senator in 1977. Three years later, Washington moved on to national politics. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives serving from 1981 to 1983.
|Harold Lee Washington is buried in Oak Woods Cemetery at 1035 E. 67th St., Chicago.|
|The Harold Washington Library Center.|
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.