(This is part of a special series on getting “Justice for the Judge.”)

There are thousands of Chicago honorary street names…so why not Duke Slater Drive?

Chicago Honorary Street Names

In 1984, the city of Chicago passed an interesting bill called the Honorary Street Name Ordinance. This bill instituted an unusual system for recognizing prominent Chicagoans with honorary street names. These honorary streets acknowledge Chicago natives who have had a significant impact on the world around them. Naming a city block after someone doesn’t actually change the street name – which prevents confusion for mail deliverers and others navigating their way through town – but it honors a notable citizen with a brown sign underneath the official green street name. In many ways, it functions as Chicago’s equivalent of an official proclamation.

Oprah Winfrey ChicagoIf you’ve ever been to Chicago, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are more than 1,200 brown honorary street signs now in Chicago, and that number grows every year. Such signs honor the famous (Oprah Winfrey, Frank Sinatra), the little known (Sophie Madej, Cynthia Eckner), the corporate (Bank of Chicago, DeVry Institute of Technology) and even the controversial (Hugh Hefner) contributors to the Windy City. Several sports figures have honorary streets named after them as well, including George Halas, Paul Robeson, Jesse Owens, and Sammy Sosa.

I know you know where I’m going with this.

Justice for the Judge

Duke Slater was raised on the South Side of Chicago. He returned years later and proved to be one of the great athletes in Chicago history. As a member of the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals in the late-1920s, he became an icon and an inspiration for residents of the South Side. Here was an African-American, a native Chicagoan, one of their own, representing the South Side’s team (the Cardinals) on the football field. And he did it during a time in the late-1920s when there were no other black players in the entire NFL.

But of course, Slater’s influence on the Windy City doesn’t end there. It starts there. After he retired from football, he settled down on the South Side of Chicago and made that neighborhood his home for several decades. He served as a respected attorney in the community until 1948, when he became the second African-American elected as a judge in the city of Chicago. Without a doubt, Duke Slater was a Chicago icon.

How do we go about making this happen?  Honorary streets are proposed by Chicago aldermen, who take the proposal to the city council’s transportation committee.  We need to get an alderman on board with this suggestion.  A Duke Slater Drive could be located near Slater’s home area of South Chicago, and as someone who has visited that area, it could use all the positive press it can get.  A Duke Slater Drive sign would only cost the city about $40, but it would go a long way toward recognizing one of the great men in Chicago history.  Unfortunately, the aldermen who can suggest honorary street names are most responsive to actual Chicago citizens, and I don’t live there.  Maybe one of my readers out there who lives in Chicago can help campaign on Slater’s behalf as well.

This makes too much sense not to happen.  A powerful man whose blocking finished off many successful drives for the Chicago Cardinals deserves a drive of his own. Duke Slater Drive…it just sounds right. It’s time to get members of the Chicago City Council to agree.

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