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Afternoon Edition: July 13, 2021

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Edith Renfrow Smith in her bedroom at Bethany Retirement Community. She turns 107 tomorrow. In 1937, she became the first Black woman to graduate from Grinnell College.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be partly cloudy with a high near 79 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low around 68. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high near 86.

Top story

Grinnell College’s first Black woman grad looks back at first 106 years of her life: ‘Nobody’s better than you’

On those long ago Sundays in Iowa, Edith Renfrow Smith’s mother Eva Pearl made Jell-O with black walnuts in it. Her older sister Helen would play the piano at their house on 1st Avenue, and the young men from Grinnell College would gather around. This was in the 1920s.

“They would come, sing songs — not all of them, the ones that liked to sing,” said Smith, 106. “There were 10 of them.”

Those details — the walnuts, that some guests sang, some didn’t, and exactly how many came nearly 100 years ago — are typical of the sharp, specific memories of Smith, who turns 107 tomorrow.

The students frequented the Renfrow house on Sundays because it was one of the few Black homes in town, and their example inspired Smith to later attend Grinnell herself — Class of ’37, the first African American woman to graduate there.

That might sound impressive. But if one quality stands out when visiting Smith at her tidy apartment at the Bethany Retirement Community on North Ashland Avenue, it is that she is never overly impressed with herself or anybody else.

Shaking Renfrow’s hand, it is impossible not to reflect that you are shaking hands with a woman whose grandparents were born into chattel slavery. She remembers them, too.

Read Neil Steinberg’s full story on the incredible life of Edith Renfrow Smith, and check out today’s follow-up on Smith’s perspective on the world ahead of her 107th birthday tomorrow.

More news you need

  1. Fresh off a visit to the White House, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown today renewed his call for violent offenders to remain behind bars longer — again. State’s Attorney Kim Foxx last week turned Brown’s criticism against him, saying police need to make more arrests for violent crimes.
  2. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said today she’s disappointed in SEIU Local 73 leadership and her relationship with the union has frayed following an 18-day strike. The work stoppage ended yesterday after county workers agreed to a contract that Preckwinkle said has been on the table for several weeks.
  3. Chicago Public Schools unveiled the proposed framework of its $9.3 billion budget for the 2022 fiscal year today, as it begins to move forward from the pandemic. The budget includes more than $1 billion in federal relief funding.
  4. The FBI has been investigating a Board of Review employee who allegedly used his position to lower property assessments in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash bribes, court documents obtained by the Sun-Times show. The employee said the money would be split with others in the Board of Review office, according to a federal court affidavit.
  5. After 30 years and four mayors, Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Commissioner Rosa Escareno is calling it quits. She recently spoke with Fran Spielman about her departure here.
  6. In an explosive audit, retiring Inspector General Joe Ferguson has concluded aldermen should be stripped of their power to pick their ward superintendents. Now, aldermen are mobilizing to stop the mayor from depriving them of that power.
  7. More winners of the state’s vaccine lottery have been announced, with three residents — from Chicago, Quincy and Springfield — winning $100,000. Winners have seven days to claim their prizes, and they’ll be announced in eight days, unless they choose to remain anonymous.

A bright one

The local native who plays Dr. Rick on commercials also makes noises when sitting down

Chicago area native Bill Glass appreciates the irony surrounding the popularity of the Progressive Insurance commercials where he plays Dr. Rick, a self-help guru who assists homeowners in avoiding the habits of their parents.

In the commercials, Dr. Rick teaches hapless grown-ups how to open a PDF, how to pronounce “quinoa” and how to avoid making noises when sitting down, among other suggestions.

“I’m not gonna lie. Recently, I have made noises sitting down and I never thought I would,” said Glass. “So some of the stuff from the commercials is not just true for everyone else; every now and then it happens to me as well. I have two teenagers, so I’m saying stuff that I never thought I would say.”

Dr. Rick from the Progressive commercials is played by Bill Glass, an Arlington Heights native who performed in Chicago at Second City and ImprovOlympic.
Progressive Casualty Insurance

Glass, an Arlington Heights native who attended Hersey High School and performed at Second City and ImprovOlympic, also is on “Rutherford Falls,” a show on the Peacock streaming service starring Ed Helms (“The Hangover,” “The Office”).

Now based in California, Glass misses being in Chicago.

“That’s where I got to do a lot of my improv,” said Glass. “It was a great time; I owe people like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and David Koechner.”

Evan F. Moore has more on the popular ads and Glass’ backstory here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

In honor of National French Fry Day today, we want to know: Who has the best fries in Chicago? Tell us why.

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: Where’s the best place near Chicago to go see the stars in the night sky? Here’s some of what you said…

“Over by the lake. Northwestern has a great spot in Evanston.” — Mem M. Martinez

“Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. It’s a quick five-hour drive.” — Will Baro

“On the pier, beach or bluff of St. Joseph, Michigan.” — Cynthia Mckenna

“Starved Rock State Park. I’ve camped out there to watch meteorite showers.” — John Kielbasa

“Rainbow Beach.” — Dana J. Benjamin

“Thatcher Woods in River Forest.” — Carlos Perez

“Waukegan Pier” — Michael Henley Sr.

“The Adler Planetarium. My mom, dad and I used to go many, many years ago on hot Chicago nights and watch the stars.” — Lupe Jaskiewicz Vega

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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