Desiree L. Tate, a Chicago public relations consultant who worked for Mayor Harold Washington, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Barack Obama, died Monday night, according to friends.
The president and CEO of Tate & Associates, she was a mentor to many, especially to young African-Americans and women in public relations and politics.
“She was a significant civic leader,” said Leon D. Finney Jr., president of the Woodlawn Community Development Corp. “She helped to push the public approval process for the Obama Presidential Center.”
Ms. Tate died en route to Rush University Medical Center after being stricken at her home nearby. She was 62.
“The issue was cardiovascular,” Finney said.
“As alongtime member of the Obama Foundation family, Dez was a Chicago businesswoman and community leader who was a force behind the bid to bring the Obama Presidential Center to Chicago and worked closely with the Obama Foundation from the day we started here,” said David Simas, CEO of the foundation. “. . . She was the embodiment of the Obama Foundation’s mission — a leader in her community who sought to lift others up as well. A mother. A dedicated mentor to young black professionals. An entrepreneur. She led with compassion, smarts, and a sense of humor that will be deeply missed.”
“As an aide to Mayor Harold Washington, senior advisor to Senator Carole Moseley Braun, and part of President Barack Obama’s campaigns, Desiree always answered the call to service and never hesitated to fight for what she believed in,” said Mayor Emanuel.
“If you were trying to build a community program or build a business, if there was a way she could, she would help you,” said Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, chair and CEO of Next Level Health.
And Whitaker said, “She knew real, everyday people. She could reach those people from Edgewater to Englewood.”
Finney said Ms. Tate was mentored by a previous generation of Chicago’s top African-American women leaders, including Arnita Young Boswell, a University of Chicago professor whose brother Whitney Young was head of the National Urban League. Ms. Tate also had a strong network of friends and business contacts through her involvement at Trinity United Church of Christ.
A graduate of Lindblom High School, Ms. Tate went on to Indiana University and earned a master’s degree in business administration at DePaul University.
She worked on projects for Lyft, the Illinois Medical District and the Chicago Housing Authority, among others.
“She taught me everything there was to know about working in Chicago and being active in politics,” said Tarrah Cooper, a former press secretary to Emanuel and partner in the Rise Strategy Group. She said Ms. Tate once organized an Emanuel rally that drew 1,500 people.
“Desiree was very giving and generous, and for her 60th birthday, instead of having a lavish celebration, she went to Breakthrough Ministries and had dinner catered for the homeless women guests, and gave them spa services,” Cooper said.
And Ms. Tate enlisted 30 friends to help with the gathering at Breakthrough, where she was on the governing board. “There was no greater honor or purpose in her life than to serve other people.”
Often, she wore trademark silver hoop earrings and expertly tailored dark suits. She loved dogs, purple orchids and her pink hydrangeas, said Whitaker, whose husband Eric, former chief of the Illinois Department of Public Health, is a close Obama friend.
And she was a talented cook and hostess. “Her home was a wonderful warm place where people came to be fed and to laugh,” Whitaker said. “… She oozed love and it went everywhere.”
Ms. Tate is survived by her daughter, Ashley Tate-Gilmore, CEO of Fortis Global. A celebration of life is planned at 11:30 a.m. Monday at Trinity United Church of Christ, 400 W. 95th St.
Maudlyne Ihejirika and Lynn Sweet contributed to this obituary.