SPRINGFIELD-The Illinois Statehouse has lost one of its most familiar faces.
Known for his encyclopedic knowledge of Illinois politics, longtime lobbyist William Luking died Thursday at his Chicago office, friends confirmed Friday.
“My friend passed away in his sleep,” Derek Blaida, a special assistant for governmental and legislative affairs to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
Luking, 66, of Chicago, first came to Springfield to lobby for former Mayor Harold Washington in 1986 and represented City Hall at the Capitol each successive mayoral administration, up to and including Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“Bill Luking dedicated himself to the law and the legislative process. His legend and legacy will be lasting,” Emanuel said in a prepared statement. “For nearly 30 years, Bill fought for Chicago and its people and was essential to every major legislative initiative passed on the city’s behalf. As a dean of the Illinois statehouse, Bill shared with others his passion for history and always made himself available to mentor young people learning their way around the halls of the state Capitol. On behalf of all of Chicago, thanks Bill.”
Luking’s other lobbying clients included Cook County, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Transit Authority, City Colleges and the Chicago Horticultural Society.
Blaida praised Luking for “his historical knowledge, his ability to navigate both the procedural and political atmosphere while always, always being honest and always making sure that at the end of the day, when Bill Luking said something, you knew it was true.
“He was an honest broker from beginning to end,” Blaida said. “Just a hell of a guy. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, paid Luking similar praise.
“He was among the first people to encourage me to run for office in 1976. He was a man of honor, with an incredible knowledge of the legislative process,” Cullerton said. ”For decades, Bill used his considerable skills to tirelessly advance the interests of the city of Chicago. He will be greatly missed.”
An aide to House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, described Luking as “very very bright and detail-oriented” with a vast knowledge of state and federal law.
“He has been around us a long time, just somebody with a wealth of institutional and legal knowledge that a lot of people went to on issues,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. “Local government stuff was his forte. When you’d have a complex issue or a new challenge, Luking would be the kind of person you’d talk to. He might tell you, ‘Twenty years ago, this is how this was dealt with.’”
Funeral arrangements are pending.