Gus Savage, Newspaper executive and politician, Died at 90


Augustus Alexander “Gus” Savage was born on October 30, 1925, and died on October 31, 2015.
He was a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives from Illinois.
Gus was born in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from Roosevelt University in Chicago.
He served in the United States Army from 1943 to 1946 and then worked as a journalist from 1954 to 1979, owning a chain of weekly community newspapers in the Chicago area.
Gus was unsuccessful in his candidacy for the House of Representatives in 1968 and 1970, losing the Democratic primary both times, but won election to the House in 1980, representing the 2nd District on Chicago’s South Side for 6 terms, from January 1981 to January 1993.
Gus was criticised for racist and anti-Semitic statements against both white and Jewish people. Savage once gave a speech in which he listed the names of all of the Jewish donors living outside of the Chicago area who donated money to his opponent.
This led to a backlash, to which Gus responded that only white people could be racist.
In 1989, Gus was accused of trying to force himself on a female Peace Corps worker in Zaire.
He denied the allegations and blamed them on the “racist press.”
The House Ethics Committee decided that the events did indeed occur, but it did not take disciplinary action only because Savage wrote a letter of apology.
Gus had long been controversial even in his own district, never winning a primary election with more than 52% of the vote, and usually facing multiple challengers.
For the 1992 election, his district had been extended further into Chicago’s south suburbs by redistricting, and Savage faced Mel Reynolds, who had challenged him in the 1988 and 1990 primaries.
Gus claimed that “racist Jews” were donating to Reynolds, while Reynolds claimed that Savage was involved in a drive-by shooting that injured him.
Although Savage accused Reynolds of staging the shooting, he lost the 1992 election to Reynolds by a margin of 63%-37%.
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 was temporarily halted in 1992, pending further evaluation by the General Services Administration, after Gus was able to leverage his reputation as a national political figure to bring attention to the more controversial aspects of the project.
Gus passed away at age 90 on October 31, 2015, one day after his 90th birthday.