Sen. Dick Durbin joins bid to have legendary judge buried at Arlington National

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Retired Judge George Leighton, who is 105, wants to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Some key civic leaders are trying to make it happen. | Sun-Times Library

Powerful U.S. Sen.Dick Durbin(D-IL) is jumping aboard a bandwagon hoping to grant the wish of a 105-year-old World War II veteran and highly respected former Illinois judge,George N. Leighton.

Leighton, the namesake of Cook County’s main criminal courthouse, is hoping he can be buried as a soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

On Jan 21, Sneed tipped the Veterans Caucus of the Chicago City Council was planning to sponsor a resolution urging the federal government to accommodate Leighton’s wish and organize an effort to see whether his dream can be fulfilled.

“I read your column about the judge’s request and I support the efforts of the City Council’s Veteran Caucus,” Durbin told Sneed.

“While this is a complex issue, I am working to find any way I can help,” he added.

“Judge Leighton is a wonderful man who has served his country and his county honorably. His dedication to justice has not been limited to the courtroom. Judge Leighton has spent his entire life advocating on behalf of those who did not have a voice in our criminal justice system.”

OPINION

• The juggernaut: The restrictions imposed at Arlington National Cemetery, which is run by the U.S. Army, are tough. Sneed is told their burial requirements are different from other national cemeteries because of space constraints; service members who qualify for in-ground burial must either have retired from 20 years on active duty, received certain decorations (Silver Star or higher, or a Purple Heart), been held as prisoners of war, or died on active duty.

A decision on a waiver is ultimately made by the secretary of the Army (or the secretary of defense or president in rare circumstances). Exceptions to the burial eligibility requirements are extremely rare and eligibility for burial is verified only at the time of death, according to ANC rules.

• The plea:Robert Whitfield,the husband of Leighton’s daughter,Barbara,told Sneed: “It was disheartening to find out you have to have something above his Bronze Star to be buried at Arlington,” he said. “We are hoping based on his civil rights and jurist history, his wish might be granted.”

Whitfield, who said Leighton “served as a captain in a segregated unit in the Pacific campaign as a logistics officer,” is also conducting more research on his father-in-law’s military service history.

The City Council Veterans Caucus, which is hoping to fulfill Leighton’s dream by introducing the resolutionFeb. 28at the next City Council meeting, is comprised ofAld.Gilbert Villegas(36th); Ald.Chris Taliaferro(29th), Ald.Milly Santiago(31th); Ald.George Cardenas(12th); Ald.Danny Solis(25th); and Ald.Edward Burke(14th).

“This is a classic example of an American immigrant story,” said Burke.

“His [Leighton’s] parents came to the United States via the Cape Verde Islands to Massachusetts and worked in the cranberry bogs. So did he. Judge Leighton never graduated from high school, but he graduated from Harvard. An amazing story.”

“As Illinois celebrates the bicentennial year, Judge Leighton, one of the most distinguished citizens of the Land of Lincoln, should be granted his hope to have his final resting place in Arlington cemetery.”

Operation Desert Stormy . . .

Dateline: The doghouse at the White House, etc. etc. etc.

President Donald Trump’s lonely trip to a Swiss conference minus his mute missus, Melania —in the aftermath of allegations of her hubby’s fling with porn star Stormy Daniels shortly after the first lady gave birth to their son — has gotten the tabloid press going gaga.

• The latest hiccup: The London Daily Mail claims Melania, who is now quietly ensconced unannounced in the couple’s Palm Beach estate, “has been spending nights at a posh D.C. hotel” since the allegations surfaced.

Melania’s press secretary Stephanie Grishamtweeted Friday afternoon, “BREAKING: The laundry list of salacious & flat-out false reporting about Mrs. Trump by tabloid publications & TV shows has seeped into ‘mainstream media’ reporting. She is focused on her family & role as FLOTUS — not the unrealistic scenarios being peddled daily by the fake news.”

Bling. Fling. What a thing!

Jog log . . .

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is trying to work in a visit to Chicago soon, had a personal request of Mayor Rahm Emanuel: “He wanted to schedule time for a run, weather permitting,” said hizzoner, who had taken Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodion a lakefront run when he visited here in December.

Pssst!

Yes. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon will remain on the University of Chicago debate forum invite on globalism at the request of Booth School of Business ProfessorLuigi Zingalesdespite student protests — although Bannon could nix it.

So how does U. of C’s Institute of Politics stellarDavid Axelrod feel about the Bannon issue?

“Globalism is a subject on which Bannon has famously strong views and about which he has counseled the president. I know that Bannon is a deeply polarizing figure, offensive to many. But I believe that such invitations provide students with the opportunity to scrutinize and challenge speakers and ideas, including some they find strongly objectionable.”

Sneedlings . . .

Brhhh! The Special Olympics 2018 Polar Plunge is set for March 4. Get out! . . .Saturday’s birthdays: Rosamund Pike, 39; Alan Cumming, 53; and John Witherspoon,76. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: J. Cole, 33; Ariel Winter, 20; and Gianluigi Buffon, 40.

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