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April 24, 2014

In Memoriam: The Honorable Richard J. Elrod

by Dan Rodriguez
Daniel J. Elrod, the Honorable Richard J. Elrod, and Steven M. Elrod, at Dan’s graduation from Northwestern Law last spring.

Daniel J. Elrod, the Honorable Richard J. Elrod, and Steven M. Elrod, at Dan’s graduation from Northwestern Law last spring.

The Honorable Richard J. Elrod (JD ’58) was laid to rest earlier this week. He was a tremendously influential figure in Cook County politics.

In 1968 he was one of the attorneys who advised Mayor Richard J. Daley to let the people protesting the Democratic National Convention camp in Grant Park. Mayor Daley did not heed this advice, with disastrous results. A year later, during the “Days of Rage” protests, Daley ordered Elrod into the streets to make sure the protestor’s civil rights were protected. It is a horrible irony that he was severely injured and ultimately paralyzed as the result of a confrontation with an activist during one of these protests.

Despite the physical challenges resulting from his injury, he ran for Cook County Sheriff in 1970. He was elected and held that office for three terms, from 1970 to 1986. In 1988, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed him to the Cook County Circuit Court, a position he held for 25 years.

His son, Steven M. Elrod (JD ’82) is executive partner at Holland and Knight here in Chicago, and he is also an adjunct faculty member at the Law School, teaching “State and Local Government Law”—the same class, many of you will recall, that was taught by Dawn Clark Netsch (JD ’52) for many years. In 2013, Steve’s teaching was recognized by students, who voted to award him the Adjunct Teaching Award—the same year his son, Daniel J. Elrod (JD ’13), earned his JD from the Law School. Dan is currently an associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman in Chicago.

My colleague, MaryPat Mauro, represented the Law School at the memorial service at Temple Am Shalom in Glencoe. She sent me a note about it, which I am happy to share:

“I was really touched by how much Northwestern Law meant to the Elrod family, and fostered their commitment to public service in the community at large. Steve spoke very eloquently about his father’s life and career. Law was half-jokingly referred to as the family business. Dan’s graduation last May was an important event for all of them. Steve shared family memories, including the years after his father was injured. Initially, the prognosis was terrible and the doctors told the family they did not expect him to live. It’s an extraordinary point of pride for the family that despite this incredible difficulty and permanent disability, it never held the Judge back from things he wanted to accomplish. He also shared a wonderful family story about a trip to Great America: the grandchildren were determined to have their grandfather join them on an “extreme” roller coaster ride. He agreed, and after some effort he was safely strapped in. At the end of the ride, extracting him from the coaster was more complicated. Good-naturedly, rather than making people in line wait longer, Judge Elrod went around again while the park staff figured out how to get him out. Unfortunately, it took more than one more ride to figure it out. Finally, when the coaster was parked and there was enough staff to lift him out, he joked to the people waiting in line: ‘I was fine when I got on this thing.’”

Judge Elrod was a remarkable man and public servant. May he rest in peace.

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