Post office renamed after Evanston political icon Abner Mikva


Jacob Morgan/The Daily Northwestern

The Evanston Post Office on Davis Street was named after the late Evanston politician Abner Mikva last week. Mikva served on the U.S. House as a representative from Evanston’s district, a federal judge and White House counsel to Bill Clinton.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

The Evanston Post Office on Davis Street has a new title, following the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote Thursday to rename it after Abner Mikva, the late progressive politician and former federal judge.

“People in Evanston are smiling today remembering Abner Mikva,” Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said in a news release. “He was a great man and a good man. His name should be on our post office and now it will.”

Mikva, who died in July, was once a representative for Illinois’ 10th district, which used to include Evanston. After representing the Hyde Park area in Congress for two terms, a reapportionment had positioned Mikva to run against Democratic Rep. Ralph Metcalfe — a popular black politician — on Chicago’s South Side. Mikva decided to move to Evanston in 1971 and try his hand in the 10th district election. He lost in that year, but won in 1974.

The 26th Amendment, which gave 18 to 20-year-olds the right to vote had been passed in 1971, so Mikva concentrated on mobilizing the student vote at Northwestern.

His efforts helped activate Democratic activism in Evanston, said Judge Jerry Esrig of the Circuit Court of Cook County in a July interview with The Daily. Before Mikva’s 1974 election, the previous seven congressmen had been Republican, and the city had voted Republican in the 1964 and 1968 presidential elections.

After serving in the House for three terms, Mikva served as chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, White House counsel to Bill Clinton and a professor at both Northwestern and University of Chicago law schools.

In his various public service posts, Mikva championed criminal justice reform and gun control. Additionally, he is known for his 1993 decision as chief judge striking down a ban on gay people serving in the U.S. military.

President Barack Obama awarded Mikva the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) introduced the bill to rename the post office after Mikva.

“Ab was one of the few Americans to hold the distinction of serving in all three branches of the federal government,” Schakowsky said in her remarks to the House floor. “He passed away on July 4 of this year. On that day America lost a great patriot, and I also lost a very precious friend and mentor.”

In her statement on the House floor, Schakowsky said one of the most enduring parts of Mikva’s legacy is the Mikva Challenge, which he and his wife started in 1997 to encourage youth to engage civically.

The challenge encourages young people to volunteer on campaigns of both parties, serve as election judges and intern in legislative offices.

“I am so thrilled that we are going to pay an appropriate tribute to the life and legacy of Abner Mikva,” Schakowsky said.

Mikva’s daughter, Mary Mikva, said in a news release that renaming the post office, 1101 Davis St., was a “great tribute.”

“It combines three things my Dad loved: Congress, Evanston and getting and sending letters,” she said.

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