Friday, August 2, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: State Rep. Welch, Congressman Davis, Henderson Yarbrough, Mayor Harvey and Commissioner Johnson during an Aug. 2 tribute to Yarbrough in Maywood. | J. Boston
During a town hall forum hosted by Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) on Aug. 1 at Village Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, elected officials from a range of taxing bodies and levels of government gathered to celebrate Henderson Yarbrough — the longtime civil servant and former Maywood mayor who retired from public life this year.
The seemingly impromptu celebration was actually a surprise orchestrated by Yarbrough’s wife, Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, who sported a poker face while sitting beside her husband before Davis asked the former mayor to come before the crowd of roughly 100 people. Davis then read a Congressional resolution honoring Yarbrough that he read on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Davis was followed by other elected officials, family members and friends who thanked Yarbrough for his service and lauded his calm, poised demeanor — a characteristic that helped endear him even to those with whom he had political disagreements.
“When Yarbrough served as mayor of Maywood, we had our agreements and disagreements, but there was always respect among each other,” said state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th). “ And since I’ve become state representative, he’s been one of the people most encouraging to me … As a black man in the community, this gentleman was the role model for us.”
Welch and 1st District Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson said that they instructed their offices to draft resolutions that will be presented before the Illinois House and the Cook County Board of Commissioners in the coming weeks. Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey also read a proclamation drafted in tribute to Yarbrough.
“If it wasn’t for men like you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Harvey said.
Maywood Village Clerk Viola Mims, who is a realtor, said that Yarbrough “is a person you can speak to and understand that whatever he says has a meaning behind it.”
Tim Curry, a former Maywood police chief, said that Yarbrough “was a great leader under my tenure.”
Arnettra Burnside, a Maywood Park District commissioner, said that “I wouldn’t be a park district commissioner if it had not been for the opportunities” that Yarbrough and his wife presented her, before lauding the couple for helping her daughter and her brother advance their education and career, respectively.
Henderson Yarbrough, second to left, with his wife, Clerk Karen Yarbrough and supporters on Aug. 1. | J. Boston
Kajaria Yarbrough, the former mayor’s niece, said that her uncle “was the best uncle I could have ever asked for,” adding that “Uncle Hank” was also a surrogate father to her and other relatives.
“You could go to him for advice, love and attention,” she said. “He’s your biggest cheerleader and supporter. His heart and home was always open … I wish I had his calmness.”
Dominique Jeter, a young college student who lives in Maywood, said that Yarbrough “taught me everything when it came to politics and government,” adding that when she graduates, she plans to return to Maywood and “run for trustee in Mr. Yarbrough’s honor.”
Rev. Joseph Richardson, the longtime pastor of St. James Community Baptist Church of Broadview, where Yarbrough is a deacon and longtime member, also attended the tribute.
“This young man you’re honoring — we love him dearly,” said Richardson before adding that his congregation “is very proud of you.”
Yarbrough, who is currently the president of the Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club, started working for the village of Maywood in 1983 as a special projects coordinator in the community development department under the village’s first African-American mayor, Joe Freelon.
Yarbrough would go on to serve as mayor from 2005 until 2013. He also served a term as village trustee from 2015 to 2019, when he announced that he would not run for reelection.
On Thursday, Yarbrough expressed genuine surprise.
“This was totally unexpected,” he said. “I don’t know how my wife kept it secret.” VFP
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