First African-American Woman Elected as Cook County State’s Attorney

Kimberly Foxx, the first African-American woman to lead the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, said Southern Illinois University Carbondale helped lay the foundation for her success.

Growing up in Cabrini-Green Homes in Chicago, raised by a single mother who dropped out of high school three months before she was set to graduate as she brought Foxx into the world, the groundbreaking prosecutor said she arrived 27 years ago in Carbondale “as a young person who was not expected to be much of anything,” as she put it.

“And so I got on the 4 o’clock Amtrak and came down here, for the first time in August of 1990, full of hopes and dreams and aspirations of one day becoming a lawyer. It was here, in Carbondale, for the course of the next seven years, that I got the foundation that I needed to stand here today — to come back, ever so grateful, grateful, grateful,” Foxx said Sunday afternoon at the Carbondale NAACP 40th annual Freedom Fund Banquet, where she delivered the keynote address.

Foxx said there “is no way in any imagination that I could have had back then” as an undergraduate arriving in Carbondale — the first place she ever lived away from home — for the first semester of classes “that I would be standing before you as the first African-American woman elected to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.”

At that, Foxx received a standing ovation from the crowd that filled the Carbondale Civic Center event hall. “Steadfast and Unmovable” was the theme of this year’s event, which raised money for scholarships and other activities of the Carbondale NAACP.

Foxx said she changed her mind about the speech she wanted to give at the banquet in the 48 hours leading up to it. She returned to Chicago Saturday evening, she said, from a brief trip to Airlie, a hotel and conference center near Warrenton, Virginia, about an hour from Washington, D.C.

The reason for the trip, Foxx said, was a rare invitation for a prosecutor — herself — to address a weekend retreat for civil rights lawyers and activists sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Foxx said she came to learn that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has a 55-year history of meeting at the Airlie convention center, which in the early 1960s was considered the only place south of the Mason-Dixon line that would host an integrated gathering of black and white lawyers. Foxx said that as she walked around the stunningly beautiful 300-acre grounds, she could not help but feel shaken by the fact she was standing here “as a lawyer, as a prosecutor, as an elected official, on land where my ancestors toiled” in an area that was once the site of a large Virginia plantation.

She said she wondered what her great-great-great-grandmother, who was a slave, would have thought about her great-great-great granddaughter traveling to this location to address a group of civil rights activists as an elected leader of the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country.

Foxx took office Dec. 1, 2016. “It’s easy for us to think about that accomplishment and say to ourselves, ‘We’ve gotten so far, that if I can be here, that if we could have elected an African-American president, if can we look around us at things that are so much better than they were before,’ but I couldn’t help but be struck by being in this space,” Foxx said.

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Source: The Southern Illinoisan / 

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