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Ex-cabinet member recalls his historic votes
By Chinta Strausberg
The funeral for retired U.S. Congressman Gus Savage, 90, who died in his sleep early Saturday, October 31, 2015, at his son’s Olympia Fields home, will be held Saturday, November 7, 2015, at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 1257 W. 111th St. at 11 a.m., headed by Rev. Tyrone Crider.
Savage died in his sleep the day after he celebrated his 90th birthday with his family. He was found unresponsive Saturday morning, according to his grandson, Rev. Thomas Savage, Jr., associate pastor at Mt. Calvary.
Born on October 30, 1925 in Detroit, Michigan, Savage moved to Chicago’s south side when he was a young child. Though his family was poor, Savage had a burning desire to help others who mirrored his economic upbringing.
A graduate of Roosevelt University, Savage served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946. He was a journalist from 1954 to 1979 and wanted to become a voice for the voiceless and it was that passion that drove him into the newspaper business and ultimately to congress where he fought hard for minorities and often went against the political norm that at times caused him some serious push-backs including from some of his allies.
It was in 1965 when Savage founded the Citizen Newspapers and it quickly became this nation’s largest community newspapers. A trailblazer, Savage’s stories shined light into dark places that some newspapers refused to go. He sold his newspapers in 1980 to enter politics.
Elected in 1980, in January of 1981 Savage became congressman of the 2nd congressional district and held that office until January 1993 when after his district was remapped Mel Reynolds who twice was defeated by Savage in 1988 and 1990 defeated him.
This year, Reynolds was indicted on allegations that he failed to file his income tax returns from 2009-2012. During the 1990’s, the former Rhodes scholar was found guilty for having sex with a minor (campaign worker) and for campaign and bank fraud.
Savage’s death brought sadness to his former chief-of-staff, Louanner Peters, who said, “He never wavered in the fight for fairness and justice no matter the foe or the arena. His decisions in the political arena was always, always guided and based on principle.”
Both Rev. Savage and Peters shared their most memorable moments of the feisty congressman. Rev. Savage said the most memorable memories of his grandfather were the time when he was a freshman at Howard University. Savage took him on a tour of Washington, D.C.
“He asked me what did I want to do with my life, and I told him all about the nice cars in Washington I had seen,” said Rev. Savage. “I thought he was rude when he told me that my mind was small because I cared about things that depreciated in value. He told me I should be caring about things that would last. He thought I had not grown up and said there wasn’t enough time for me to not grow up.”
Another time Rev. Savage will never forget is when he attended his sister’s graduation. “He made me take pictures and told me that I may have a lot of friends and supporters but that I have only one family. He told me I always have to appreciate my family, and I never forgot that,” said Savage who said he is continuing his grandfather’s work through his ministry. “It’s the same work helping people only through a different venue.”
Peter’s said the most precious moments she had with the congressman was when Savage, who was also chairman of the House subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, “passed an amendment to the Defense authorization of the set aside which “kicked off the largest set asides in this country. “
Peters was referring go Public Law 99-661 where Savage’s bill passed in section 1207. She said Savage worked with the Defense Department in implementing the historic set aside program. “In the first year, the percentage of minority participation went from 1.7 percent to up to 3 or 4 percent. You’re talking about a $300 billion procurement. That is a lot. It was a significant leap in minority participation,” recalled Peters.
Referring to the 28-story Ralph Metcalfe Federal Building located in downtown Chicago; Peters credited Savage with that project named after the late U.S. Rep. Ralph Metcalfe
She will never forget Cong. Savage’s bold move in New York where he heard the construction workers had discovered a grave filled with former slaves unearthed at the site of a new federal complex. “They wanted to keep digging and move the grave,” said Peters.  “The incident drew a lot of reaction from back academia.”
New York City Mayor David N. Dinkins called on Savage for assistance. Peters said Savage went to the New York site. “He told them ‘don’t move another damn bone. Shut the site down.’” Referring to the slaves, Peters said Savage told the workers, “These people were disrespected in life. I will not allow you to disrespect them I death.” Peters said that also sparked the DNA process.
Locally, Peters remembered the time when there was a major hazardous waste site left in the Pullman community. “A company walked away and left building with hazardous materials. Savage went to the site and called the EPA.” She said Savage ultimately received super fund dollars to clean up the toxic waste. “He was on point with that.” Peters said.
Peters also recalled the “years of intense activity” throughout the Savage administration but said, “You were always comfortable with the realization that he was always guided with fairness and justice.
“Sometimes, it was not comfortable positions that he took throughout his battles. It was not easy in some instances and sometimes you got a lot of push back,” said Peters who was chief-of-staff for 12-years having begun as a caseworker.
Specifically, Peters referred to the “drug deal (bill) that ended up sending hundreds of thousands of young men to prison. Savage was one of three members who voted against it. We knew then it was only designed to lock up people at the street level. It was written that way,” she said.  “The entire bill was designed to lock you up and to create a prison population,” she said pointing out that community leaders picked their office accusing them of being “soft on crime.”
Mr. Savage is survived by his son, Thomas and his wife, Judge Drella Savage, his daughter, Dr. Emma Savage-Davis, and his three grandchildren, Rev. Thomas Savage, Jr. Chyealia and her husband, Christopher McBride, Alexandria Davis and a host of friends and relatives.

Photo: Congressman Gus Savage

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.


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