VMA Recollections of Forty Years of Fair Housing

Tuesday, 1 April 2008 | Category : Events

Click here to see video of the event.

Forty years ago, Oak Park made history and became a beacon for change for the entire United States. It was one of the first municipalities in the country to adopt and enforce its own Fair Housing Ordinance.

The Oak Park Fair Housing Ordinance protects the rights of individuals of any race to purchase or rent a home. As simple as it sounds today, in 1968, it was groundbreaking.

The Fair Housing Ordinance, and the philosophy behind it, are part of Oak Park’s culture—not only did it prevent white flight, but it protected Oak Park’s diversity in the future. This didn’t happen easily. In the 1960s, white families were leaving neighborhoods bordering Oak Park, and there were many who feared that a pro-integration law such as the Fair Housing Ordinance would cause housing declines and white flight here too. Amid protests and demonstrations, courageous visionaries fought for and helped pass the legislation. The family members of some of those visionaries joined the VMA on Sunday, March 30th, 2008, for a recollection of those times.

  • The family of the late John Gearen, Sr—John was a VMA endorsed Trustee who was on the Board and voted for the legislation.
  • Former Village President Jim McClure and his wife Lynn—Jim was also a VMA endorsed legislator, and as Village President in 1969, he was involved in the challenges Oak Park faced in enforcing this groundbreaking ordinance.
  • The family of the late John Donaker, Sr.—John was Village President in 1968, when the Fair Housing Ordinance was passed, and was an important advocate for the legislation. Former VMA Trustee Rupert Wenzel recalls him as “being very open to listening to everybody”…“not afraid to take action when that was needed”, and was “one of the finest people [he had] ever known.

At the event on Sunday, John Gearen, Jr. and Jim McClure made a few comments about those times, and were joined by three of our current VMA Trustees, Ray Johnson, John Hedges, and Jan Pate, who made some remarks as well. VMA member Pauline Coffman also added her recollections of how Oak Park’s leadership was recognized throughout the United States.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4