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Harris Fawell: An appreciation

Inside a red brick building in downtown Naperville is a photo of Congressman Harris Fawell sitting in the Oval Office with President Ronald Reagan and other notables.

But when you visit Harris Fawell Obituary, this is not the photo you are about to see. Rather, you see a young man with a big smile in an old-fashioned baseball uniform.

This is a good decision by the Fawell family because his baseball career influenced a difficult decision he made years later.

Fawell was elected to the state Senate when the Chicago Democrats were calling for laws that would outlaw racial housing discrimination. Then, in his first term, Senator Fawell was one of only two Republicans to support the bill.

Years later, Fawell said he was advised not to get too comfortable in Springfield as he was certainly not going to be re-elected. But he certainly was. Its constituents in the western suburbs weren’t too concerned about Chicago’s racial problems.

Why take the risk? Fawell said he saw several black players playing baseball who he believed belonged in the major leagues but never stood a chance because of the color of their skin.

“That just didn’t seem right,” Fawell said later, after voting for right.

This is not the only time that he has defied party politics. Although he knew and admired John McCain, he supported Barack Obama as President in 2008. Criticism followed, but Fawell again followed his conscience.

All elected officials compromise, but Fawell stood by his core values. In both the Illinois Senate and the United States House of Representatives, he treated his opponents with respect and mastered the art of disagreeing without being uncomfortable.

Congressman Fawell recently died at the age of 92, but today’s elected officials in Springfield and Washington, DC, could learn something from this fine man’s example.

Joe McElroy

Naperville

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