Lori Elaine Lightfoot, born 4 August 1962, an African-American politician and lawyer who was elected Mayor of Chicago in April 2019. An experienced manager, advocate and reform expert, Lori Lightfoot has worked at the city and federal level to make government more accountable and accessible. The former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot defeated Toni Preckwinkle in Chicago’s mayoral runoff election, earning roughly 75 percent of the vote and winning all 50 wards. The landslide victory makes Lightfoot the city’s first black woman and the first openly gay person elected mayor.
“Today, you did more than make history,” said Lightfoot during her acceptance speech. “You created a movement for change. When we started this journey 11 months ago, nobody gave us much of a chance. We were up against powerful interests, a powerful machine and a powerful mayor. But I remembered something Martin Luther King said when I was very young. ‘Faith,’ he said, ‘is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.’”
Lightfoot, a fresh face in Chicago politics, something she emphasized. “What we have heard from people is that they are really, really sick and tired of the same old, same old and want to break away from the past and I think that they view me as a change candidate, so I’m excited about that,” said Lightfoot during her campaign.
Lori Lightfoot Personal Life
Committed to social justice and equity
Lori Elaine Lightfoot’s upbringing shaped her commitment to social justice and equity. She is the youngest of four children born to Elijah and Ann Lightfoot. Her parents were born in the late 1920s and grew up in the segregated south – Elijah from a tiny Arkansas farming community, in which his father was a sharecropper, and Ann from the hills of Alabama. After migrating to Ohio separately with their families when they were teens, her parents met at an Urban League dance. While raising their first two young children, Lori’s father became gravely ill. He spent almost a year in a coma and awoke with complete hearing loss. Witnessing her father’s struggles with his disability—and the resulting impact on her family—profoundly shaped Lori’s views on social justice and equity.
Overcoming adversity for family
Despite his hearing loss and limited education, Lori’s father worked at least two, and typically three, jobs to keep the family in stable housing and provide the basics. He worked as a janitor, barber, and handyman to earn money to support the family. Lori’s mother Ann spent her working years in low-paying jobs in mental hospitals and nursing homes, and eventually finished her work life as a home health care aide. Throughout Lori’s life, her family faced economic instability and all the obstacles typical for a family living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Nothing short of excellence
The importance of a quality education was emphasized by Lori’s parents, especially her mother. Ann Lightfoot constantly pushed Lori to excel and not to use her race, gender, or economic status as an excuse for anything short of excellence. As a result, Lori thrived academically and earned acceptance to the University of Michigan, where she graduated with honors. She paid her own way through college with loans and a series of work-study jobs. In the summers, Lori returned to her hometown and held CEDA and factory jobs to pay for college.
Making a life in Chicago
After college, Lori worked as a legislative aide for two years in Washington, D.C. She received a full scholarship to the University of Chicago Law School and moved to Hyde Park. With the exception of a one-year clerkship on the Michigan Supreme Court in Detroit, Lori has lived in Chicago since 1986.
Lori and her spouse, Amy Eshleman, live on the near northwest side with their 10-year-old daughter.
Lori Lightfoot’s Recognition
- The Chicago Bar Association’s Earl B. Dickerson Award (2018)
- The Common Cause Illinois Champion of Justice Award (2018)
- Named a “Woman of Influence” by the Chicago Business Journal (2017)
- The Chicago Inn of Court Donald Hubert Public Service Award (2017)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago, Public Education of the Year Award (2017)
- The Chicago Federal Bar Association Walter J. Cummings Award for pro bono service (2017)
- BPI’s Champion of the Public Interest Award (2017)
- Crain’s Chicago Business named Lori to its inaugural Most Influential Woman Lawyer in Chicago list in 2017
- The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Award and Dominican University’s Ethics and Leadership Award (2016)
- The Financial Times Top 10 Innovative Lawyers in 2016
- The American Constitution Society Chicago chapter’s Legal Legends Award (2016)
Lori Lightfoot Professional Experience
Most recently serving as a senior equity partner in the Litigation and Conflict Resolution Group at Mayer Brown LLP, Lori routinely managed large, complex litigation matters with teams of attorneys, expert witnesses, and others in defense of client matters. Lori also spearheaded complex internal investigations which required managing teams of attorneys, client personnel, expert witnesses and other vendors. Lori served as the co-chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, among other firm responsibilities.
As Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, Lori created the organizational structure and staffing, and helped facilitate the financing for the independent PATF which conducted an in-depth analysis of the practices of the Chicago Police Department and related entities; issued a detailed report of findings and recommendations on April 13, 2016. Lori designed a process that included significant stakeholder involvement and opportunities for public input. Many of the PATF findings and recommendations were subsequently mirrored in a DOJ report issued on January 13, 2017. Lori continues to push for implementation of key PATF recommendations.
As President of the Chicago Police Board, Lori led a 9-member independent civilian body charged with deciding disciplinary matters involving allegations of police misconduct. Lori also facilitated a search to nominate candidates for Superintendent of the Police.
While serving as the Interim First Deputy of the Chicago Department of Procurement Services, Lori worked to completely revise the city’s minority and woman owned business certification and compliance programs, and to transform the city’s then $2 billion annual procurement processes which were inefficient, cumbersome and invited corruption. In less than a year’s time, Lori, as interim first deputy procurement officer, had accomplished her goals to “right the ship” of both the program and the department.
As Chief of Staff and General Counsel of the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), Lori ran the day-to-day operations which was responsible for 911 operations, homeland security, large special events, weather-related and man-made emergencies.
During her time with the senior management team for Superintendent Hillard, Lori served as Chief Administrator of the Office of Professional Standards. The unit investigated police-involved shootings, deaths in custody and other allegations of excessive force.
As Assistant United States Attorney in the criminal division, Lori managed large-scale investigations involving criminal drug conspiracies, political corruption, bankruptcy fraud, and other matters. During her tenure she first chaired a number of trials.
Lori Elaine Lightfoot has served on the boards of numerous progressive and pro-choice organizations like NARAL Illinois, Better Government Association, ACLU Illinois, and the Center for Conflict Resolution. More recently, Lori has been a board member of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Chicago, and Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, and is a member of the American Constitution Society’s Board of Advisors.
- Lori Elaine Lightfoot Biography and Profile (Lori Lightfoot)