Lorraine Hairston Morton (1918-2018) was a beloved figure in Evanston history as a school teacher and principal even before she was elected the City’s mayor. In 1993, she became Evanston’s first African American mayor, first Democratic mayor and second woman mayor.
Mayor Morton passed away Sept. 8 at age 99. For the last few months she lived at the home of her daughter, Elizabeth Brasher. She is also survived by two granddaughters, Elizabeth and Constance Brasher.
Born in North Carolina, Ms. Morton came to Evanston in 1941 to earn a master’s degree in education at Northwestern University. There she met her future husband, James T. Morton, a psychologist and an Evanston native. They married in late 1941 and spent some years away but returned to Evanston in 1953, settling down at 1200 Darrow Avenue. After her husband passed away in 1974, Ms. Morton continued to live there.
She made her home in Evanston for 66 years, most of them as a public servant. First she was an educator in Evanston-Skokie School District 65, teaching English and social studies at Foster, Nichols and Chute Schools for 24 years, 1953-77. In 1977 she was named the Haven School principal, serving there for 12 years before retiring.
She wasn’t really retired because she was also the Fifth Ward alderman, appointed in 1982 by Mayor Jay Lytle to fill out a vacant alderman slot. Re-elected, she stayed on as alderman until 1992. The next year she was elected mayor, a job she held for 16 years, 1993-2009, becoming the longest-serving mayor in city history. Thus, she served the city for 26 years in government posts.
Ms. Morton was also a deacon at Second Baptist Church and a lifelong member of the NAACP. She had friends throughout the city of all ages, colors and religions. She was feisty and fun, often wearing a favorite T-shirt that said, “Don’t Mess with the Mayor.”
Visitation is set for 3 to 8 p.m. Sept. 21 at First Church of God Christian Life Center, 1524 Simpson St. The funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Sept. 22 in Alice Millar Chapel on the Northwestern campus at 1870 Sheridan Rd.