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On this date in 1925, Gus Savage, a Black politician, was born.
Born in Detroit, Augustus Savage attended public schools in Chicago and served in the U.S. Army until 1946 after graduation. He earned a B.A. degree in philosophy from Roosevelt University in 1951. He began his journalism career while attending Chicago-Kent College of Law (1952-1953). Politically, Savage started in the 1940s as a full-time member of the Progressive Party of former Vice President Henry A. Wallace. He also promoted programs for Paul Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Hon. Elijah Muhammad.
A determined opponent of Chicago’s Democratic machine, Savage, ran for Congress in Illinois’ Third Congressional District in 1968 but lost. A 1970 primary bid was also unsuccessful. Savage did win in 1979, taking his seat as a member of Congress on January 3, 1981. He became chairman of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, the Subcommittee on Economic Development. He was also a senior Black member of the Committee on Small Business.
In 1986, he successfully sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1987. This set aside a possible $25 billion for minority-owned and controlled businesses, institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
In one of his final acts as chairman of the House Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds, excavation and construction at the site of the African Burial Ground in New York City were temporarily halted in 1992, pending further evaluation by the General Services Administration, after Savage was able to leverage his reputation as a national political figure to bring attention to the more controversial aspects of the project.
Savage died on October 31, 2015, one day after his 90th birthday, which he celebrated with his closest friends and family. He is survived by his son Thomas Savage, daughter Dr. Emma Savage, and grandchildren, Thomas Savage Jr., Chyella McBride, and Alexandria Savage.