Ed Smith

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Ed Smith

b. March 13, 1936

Chicago, 28th Ward Alderman (1983-2011)
Chicago, 28th Ward Democratic Committeeman (1984-2012)
Illinois, 7th District State Central Democratic Committeeman (1988-1992)

Ed H. Smith was finally elected Alderman in 1983 after defeating then-incumbent William Carothers, who was later convicted of extortion.[1] William Carothers, father of current 29th Ward Alderman, Isaac Carothers, and his father-in-law Isaac Sims, controlled the 29th Ward and the West Side African-American vote for most of the post-war period. Smith, along with fellow Chicago Public Schools teacher, Danny Davis, were the vanguard of an "independent" movement among Black voters on Chicago's West Side.

Since they had already been organizing Chicago's West Side for almost a decade by then, Smith and Davis worked closely and were key leaders for African-American Mayor Harold Washington's historic 1983 campaign and election for Mayor. The two independents worked to register thousands of new voters on the West Side and helped to sweep Washington into office – as they both campaigned for Alderman in 28th and 29th, adjacent Wards.

Davis was successful but Smith did not obtain a majority against William Carothers' powerful, patronage-backed machine, forcing a run-off. But Carothers, an African-American, found himself going against the tide in the run-off as he had endorsed the white, incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne over Washington. In the run-off Smith obtained 60% of the vote, dashing the Machine. Soon after, Carothers was convicted of extortion and Smith stood unchallenged in the 28th Ward.

Smith's beginning years as Alderman was as a leading member of the Washington 21, the minority of twenty-one City Council members who stood with Mayor Harold Washington in the Council Wars that characterized Washington's mayoral tenure.

Smith's Aldermanic tenure has been characterized by an unusually (for Chicago) spotless ethical record and an iconoclastic personality. Although he managed to serve one term as 7th District State Central Committeeman, he was unable to convert that position to the overlapping 7th CD Congressman position. After years of political cooperation, Smith and Davis traded numerous barbs in 1996 as they both vied for retiring 7th District Congresswoman Cardiss Collins' seat, creating a rift that only recently seems to be repairing between the two old allies.

Despite his vocal opposition to Mayor Richard M. Daley's policies, Smith has maintained a working relationship with the mayor on most city issues giving him leverage convince Daley to drop plans for a West Side courthouse. However, Smith vocally opposed Daley on the Big Box Living Wage Ordinance and as the chairman of the Health Committee he led the push for the 2006 city-wide smoking ban ordinance - a measure Daley originally opposed but later supported.

In 2008 Smith ran for Cook County Recorder of Deeds Democratic Nominee against Todd Stroger and Democratic Party-backed incumbent Eugene Moore. Perhaps to get him "up and out" of City Council, Mayor Daley broke his tradition of no primary election endorsements and vocally supported Smith for Recorder. Daley's endorsement against the Party caused some conflict within the Cook County Democratic Party, as newly-installed Chairman Joseph Barrios strove to enforce organizational discipline against the Mayor's endorsement. Ultimately, it mattered little, as Smith failed to carry any Wards or Townships outside the West Side and Lakefront, losing to Moore almost 2 to 1.

Employment and Electoral History

Prior to election, Smith served two years in Hyderabad, India in the Peace Corps, taught high school in the Chicago Public Schools and was Executive Director of the Chicago Economic Development Commission. With Danny Davis, Smith led Mayor Harold Washington's 1983 West Side campaign operations.

Current Chicago City Council Committees:

  • Aviation
  • Budget & Government Operations
  • Buildings
  • Committees, Rules, & Ethics
  • Finance
  • Health (Chairman)
  • Zoning


  • Alcorn State University, B.A.
  • Northeastern Illinois University, M.A., Urban Studies

Important Political Events

  • 1972, Defeated for 28th Ward Alderman against Joseph Jambrone
  • 1976, Defeated for 28th Ward Alderman against Jimmy Washington
  • 1979, Defeated for 28th Ward Alderman against Jimmy Washington
  • 1980, Defeated for 28th Ward Democratic Committeeman against William Carothers
  • 1983, Elected 28th Ward Alderman defeating incumbent William Carothers in a run-off election
  • 1984, Elected 28th Ward Democratic Committeeman defeating incumbent William Carothers
  • 1988, Elected 7th District State Central Democratic Committeeman
  • 1992, Defeated for 7th District State Central Democratic Committeeman by Danny Davis
  • 1996, Defeated for U.S. Congress, 7th District by Danny Davis
  • 2008, Defeated for Cook County Recorder of Deeds Democratic Nominee by Eugene Moore


Chicago Politics: Ward by Ward, David K. Fremon, 1989.