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Sat, 11.23.1946

Bobby Rush, Politician born

Bobby Rush

*Bobby Rush was born on this date in 1946. He is a Black politician, activist, and pastor.

Bobby Lee Rush was born in Albany, Georgia. After his parents separated when Rush was seven years old, his mother took him and his siblings to Chicago, Illinois. In 1963 Rush dropped out of high school and joined the U.S. Army.

While stationed in Chicago in 1966, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, went AWOL from the Army, and co-founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panthers. He later finished his service, receiving an honorable discharge from the Army.

Throughout the 1960s, Rush was involved in the American Civil Rights movement and worked in civil disobedience campaigns in the southern United States. After co-founding the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968, he served as its defense minister. After Black Panther Fred Hampton was assassinated by the Chicago Police Department and the State's Attorney Office in a police raid, Rush said, "We needed to arm ourselves" and referred to the police as "pigs." Earlier that same year, Rush had discussed the philosophy of his membership in the Black Panthers, saying, "Black people have been on the defensive for all these years. The trend now is not to wait to be attacked. We advocate offensive violence against the power structure." After Hampton's death, Rush became acting chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party.

Rush worked on several non-violent projects that built support for the Black Panthers in Black communities, such as coordinating a medical clinic that offered sickle-cell anemia testing on an unprecedented scale. Rush was imprisoned for six months 1972 on a weapons charge after carrying a pistol into a police station. In 1974, he left the Black Panthers, which were already declining. "We started glorifying thuggery and drugs," he told People. Rush, a profoundly religious born-again Christian, said, "I don't repudiate any of my involvement in the Panther party; it was part of my maturing." Rush earned his Bachelor of General Studies with honors from Roosevelt University in 1973 and a master's degree in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1974. He completed a degree in theological studies at McCormick Theological Seminary in 1978.

Rush was elected to Congress in 1992. He has since won consecutive re-elections. His district was originally located principally on the South Side of Chicago, with a population from 2003 to early 2013 of 65 percent African American, a higher proportion than any other congressional district in the nation. 2011 the Illinois General Assembly redistricted this area following the 2010 census.

Although still minority-majority, since early 2013, it has been 51.3 percent African American, 36.1 percent White, 9.8 percent Latino, and 2 percent Asian. A member of the Democratic Party, Rush is the only politician to have defeated the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, in an election. He is the dean of Illinois' congressional delegation. On May 13, 2017, Rush received an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities, honoris causa, from the Illinois Institute of Technology for outstanding contributions to Chicago. On January 3, 2022, he announced retiring from the U.S. House of Representatives.

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