Retired politician Wilson Frost nearly made history in December 1976 after the sudden death of sitting Mayor Richard J. Daley. Due to Frost’s rank as an alderman and President Pro Tempore of the City Council, he assumed the mantle of leadership although the city moved to give the nod to a white fellow alderman.

Frost was born on this day in 1925 in Cairo, Illinois. The Fisk University and Chicago-Kent College of Law graduate worked as an attorney in the city prior to getting elected as alderman of the 21st Ward in 1967. During his rise in office, he assumed the top city council position during the period when Mayor Daley suffered a heart attack.

Frost’s understanding of the law was that he would be next in line but reports in papers suggested that white voters weren’t quite prepared to crown a Black mayor to run the city. According to accounts, Frost attempted to enter the mayor’s office but was essentially locked out. The city instead gave the seat to Alderman Michael Bilandic.

Frost didn’t raise a stink about not getting the seat and instead continued to serve, becoming chairman of the city council’s fiance committee. He then moved to become commissioner of the Board of Review before officially retiring from public office in 1998.

In 1983, Harold Washington made history by becoming the city’s first Black mayor.

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