Lorraine H. Morton

Last updated
Lorraine H. Morton
19th Mayor of Evanston, Illinois
In office
1993 May 11, 2009
Preceded byJoan W. Barr
Succeeded by Elizabeth Tisdahl
Personal details
Born(1918-12-08)December 8, 1918
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedSeptember 8, 2018(2018-09-08) (aged 99)
Skokie, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Northwestern University
The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave in Evanston, IL Evanston Civic Center (Marywood Academy).jpg
The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center at 2100 Ridge Ave in Evanston, IL

Lorraine Hairston Morton (December 8, 1918 – September 8, 2018) was an American politician who was the mayor of Evanston, Illinois, from 1993 to 2009. [1] [2] Morton was Evanston's first African-American mayor, first Democratic mayor, and longest-serving mayor. She is also notable for spearheading the desegregation of Evanston's public schools as a teacher and school principal. [2] [3] [4]

Evanston, Illinois City in Illinois, United States

Evanston is a city in Cook County, Illinois, United States, 12 miles (19 km) north of downtown Chicago, bordered by Chicago to the south, Skokie to the west, and Wilmette to the north. It had a population of 74,486 as of 2010. It is one of the North Shore communities that adjoin Lake Michigan and is the home of Northwestern University. The boundaries of the city of Evanston are coterminous with those of the former Evanston Township, which was dissolved in 2014 by voters with its functions being absorbed by the city of Evanston.

Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. This is most commonly used in reference to the United States. Desegregation was long a focus of the Civil Rights Movement, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, particularly desegregation of the school systems and the military. Racial integration of society was a closely related goal.


Early life

Morton was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the youngest child of Keziah Hairston, a schoolteacher, and William Patrick Hairston, a prosperous businessman who helped found the Winston Mutual Life Insurance Company (now the Golden Gate Insurance Company). [5] She received a bachelor degree in education in 1938 from Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina and a master's degree in curriculum (education) from Northwestern University in 1942. She moved to Evanston in 1953 with her husband, Dr. James T. Morton Jr. (1911-1974) who was a clinical psychologist and worked at Evanston Hospital. [6] Both Morton and her husband taught at the Tuskegee Institute before moving to Evanston. [7] The couple had one daughter and two grandchildren. [1]

Winston-Salem, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Winston-Salem is a city in and the county seat of Forsyth County, North Carolina, United States. With a 2019 estimated population of 247,222 it is the second largest municipality in the Piedmont Triad region, the fifth most populous city in North Carolina, and the eighty-ninth most populous city in the United States. With a metropolitan population of 676,673 it is the fourth largest metropolitan area in North Carolina and is expected to keep that fourth spot for many more years. Winston-Salem is home to the tallest office building in the region, 100 North Main Street, formerly the Wachovia Building and now known locally as the Wells Fargo Center.

Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, is a historically black public research university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States. It is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. WSSU is an accredited university offering baccalaureate and graduate programs to a diverse student population.

Northwestern University Private research university in Illinois, United States

Northwestern University (NU) is a private research university based in Evanston, Illinois, United States, with other campuses located in Chicago and Doha, Qatar, and academic programs and facilities in Miami, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco, California. Along with its undergraduate programs, Northwestern is known for its Kellogg School of Management, Pritzker School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, Bienen School of Music, Medill School of Journalism, and McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Teaching career

Prior to her experience in municipal government, Morton was an educator in the District 65 school system from 1953 to 1989. She began teaching in Evanston in 1953 at the now-closed Foster Elementary School, [3] which was at that time the only elementary school for African-Americans in Evanston. [8] Morton then went on to teach at Nichols Middle School from 1957-1966 and Chute Middle School from 1966-1977, [9] becoming the first African-American educator to teach in an Evanston school outside of Foster School. [3] In 1977, after twenty-five years of teaching in the District 65 school system, Morton was appointed principal of Evanston's Haven Middle School and held the position until she retired from teaching in 1989. [1] She also held life membership in the Illinois Congress of Parents and Teachers. [10]

Municipal career

Alderman of the Fifth Ward

Morton continued her long career of community service and public engagement when she agreed to serve as alderman of the Fifth Ward of Evanston, [11] an Evanston City Council position she held from 1982 to 1991. As a member of the Evanston City Council, she served in committees on Housing and Community Development, Police Services, Planning and Development, Human Services, and Rules, as well as on the Unified Budget Panel. She also worked on special committees on fair housing, libraries, and gangs. [10]

Mayor of Evanston

In 1993, Morton ran for mayor of Evanston under the campaign slogan "Morton for Mayor," which accompanied images of trains and lists of people who were "on board" with her campaign. After a run-off election against Ann Rainey, alderman of Evanston's Eighth Ward, Morton was elected Evanston's first African-American and first Democratic mayor. [12] [13] She was in office for sixteen years (until 2009), becoming Evanston's longest-serving mayor. [14]

During her long mayoral tenure, Morton attempted to improve the town-gown relationship between Northwestern University and the greater population of Evanston. She was able to form a close friendship with Northwestern University president Henry Bienen and ameliorate the tension between Evanston and the University given her status as both the Mayor of Evanston and a proud alumna of Northwestern. [15]

Henry Samuel Bienen is an American academic and administrator. He was named President of the Poetry Foundation in 2015, and is President Emeritus of Northwestern University, where he served from 1995 to 2009.

Awards and honors

Both of her alma maters have recognized Morton's achievements. Winston-Salem State University created the Lorraine Hairston Morton Endowed Scholarship in 2010 for students majoring in education who are committed to community service. [16] Northwestern University, too, offers a scholarship in Morton's name—the Lorraine H. Morton Scholarship for the Master of Science in Education Program in the School of Education and Social Policy. [17] Further, Northwestern presented her with an Alumni Merit Award in 1996 and bestowed an honorary doctorate upon her in 2008. [18] She also held an honorary doctorate for public service from Kendall College in Chicago. [16]

Evanston's civic center was renamed for Morton at the time of her retirement in 2009 and is now known as the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. [19] She held the position of Vice President of the Evanston Historical Society and received community service awards from Saint Francis Hospital of Evanston and the Evanston Arts Council. [20]

In 2018, Shorefront (http://shorefrontlegacy.org) produced the documentary film "Lorraine H. Morton: A Life Worthwhile", (https://vimeo.com/252383973) as told by Morton herself, illustrated with historic images and film clips. The 45 minute documentary depicts her early life, education, early career as a teacher, alderman and as mayor of Evanston.


Morton died on September 8, 2018, at the age of 99. [19]


  1. 1 2 3 City of Evanston official bio of Mayor Lorraine H. Morton (December 2007)
  2. 1 2 City of Evanston official bio of Mayor Elizabeth B. Tisdahl Archived 2007-12-18 at the Wayback Machine
  3. 1 2 3 "Mayor Morton Reflects on Legacy of Her Tenure"
  4. "Lorraine Morton Longest Serving Mayor and First Black Teacher in Public School System"
  5. Northwestern University Archives, Lorraine H. Morton Papers, Box 1, "General Biographical Information". Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  6. Dr. James T. Morton, Jr. -- African American Pioneers in Psychology
  7. Evanston New Mayor Lorraine Morton
  8. A History of Foster School and Desegregation in School District 65
  9. Northwestern University Archives, Lorraine H. Morton Papers. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
  10. 1 2 "Guide to the Lorraine H. Morton (1918- ) Papers, 1942-2014". Explore Chicago Collections. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  11. Map of Wards and Precincts of Evanston
  12. "Democrat Morton Wins In Evanston"
  13. "Evanston's New Mayor Seeks Unity"
  14. "Lorraine Morton, Longest Serving Mayor Of Evanston, Dies At 99". Evanston, IL Patch. 2018-09-10. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  15. NU Celebrates Landmark Birthday
  16. 1 2 Scholarship Established at WSSU to Honor Retired Mayor Lorraine Morton
  17. List of SESP Sponsored Scholarships
  18. Northwestern University List of Honorary Degree Recipients
  19. 1 2 "Lorraine H. Morton dies; Evanston's first black mayor and longest-serving mayor". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-09-10.
  20. Saint Francis Hospital Honors Evanston Mayor Morton

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