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  WINDY CITY TIMES

PASSAGES: Former Chicago Commission on Human Relations chair Clarence Wood
by Carrie Maxwell
2024-03-13

This article shared 10375 times since Wed Mar 13, 2024
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LGBTQ ally and former Chicago Commission on Human Relations (CCHR) Chair and Commissioner Clarence N. Wood died March 5. He was 83.

Wood was born April 14, 1940, in Alabama. While primarily raised in Alabama, Wood nevertheless spent his summers in Chicago during his youth. He graduated from Fisk University with a bachelor's degree in social work and later studied at the University of Iowa's School of Law and the University of Illinois at Chicago's Jane Addams College of Social Work.

Among Wood's many work achievements were his 24 years at the National Urban League, culminating in his position as vice president for external affairs. Wood was also the organization's human relations foundation president, at which time he conducted a major study called the Report on Race, Ethnic and Religious Tensions in Chicago. The study included recommendations on addressing instances of racism and discrimination in the city.

Following the completion of the study in 1989, former Mayor Richard M. Daley asked Wood to become the CCHR chair and commissioner. Wood accepted the role and stayed in that position until 2007. He was the longest-tenured department head during Daley's administration. Wood supported the LGBTQ+ community in many ways, including being present at a ceremony honoring LGBTQ+ veterans and ensuring that the community was treated equally when the commission was considering new actions or policies.

During the final year of his tenure on the CCHR, Wood supported the Advisory Council on LGBT Issues protest of anti-LGBT reggae singer Buju Banton, who was set to perform at a Chicago Park District sponsored event in Washington Park. This protest resulted in the city and park district dissociating from the event.

Additionally, Wood had a proprietary role at Jeffery Pub, now Chicago's oldest LGBTQ+ bar, for a number of years.

In 2014, Wood was inducted into Chicago's LGBT Hall of Fame as a Friend of the Community. The Hall of Fame was created by Chicago's Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues while he was the CCHR Chair and Commissioner. He was also on the PFLAG national board for many years.

Chicago Commission on Human Relations First Deputy Commissioner Kenneth Gunn told Windy City Times that, "I recall meeting with Commissioner Wood in his office shortly after he hired me in August 1990. I had only been out of law school for two years, where I concentrated on civil rights. I was a young Black man who grew up in Englewood, excited to join the Commission to fight against racism and prejudice.

"Commissioner Wood looked at me and spoke to me like a mentor to his new protege: 'Mr. Gunn, when we walk through that door, we are no longer Black men.' I looked at him a bit confused, and he added, 'We represent everyone in this city who is impacted by racism, prejudice and discrimination.' For 18 years at the Commission and beyond, he worked hard every day to do just that. He expanded my narrow thinking about civil rights beyond the Black and White narrative, to understand how the ills of racism, prejudice and discrimination impact us all."

A public visitation and funeral service was scheduled for March 14 at St. Edmund's Episcopal Church, 6105 S. Michigan Ave., with the burial taking place at Oak Woods Cemetery, 1035 E. 67th St., immediately following the funeral


This article shared 10375 times since Wed Mar 13, 2024
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