Retired Judge George N. Leighton, the namesake of Cook County’s main criminal courthouse, is 105 years old.
He still plays chess.
And he has a wish.
Leighton, a World War II veteran who had a stellar career as a jurist and civil rights advocate, wants to be buried as a soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
A longtime friend, Judge William Bauer, 91, once described him as a man “who transcended everything — race, class, religion.”
“He served as a captain in a segregated unit in the Pacific campaign as a logistics officer,” said Robert Whitfield, husband of Leighton’s daughter, Barbara.
“It was disheartening to find out you have to have something above his Bronze Star to be buried at Arlington,” he told Sneed. “We are hoping, based on his civil rights and jurist history, his wish might be granted.”
Help may be on the way.
Sneed has learned the Veteran Caucus of the Chicago City Council plans to sponsor a resolution next week urging the federal government to accommodate Leighton’s wish and organize an effort to see whether his dream can be fulfilled.
“Judge Leighton is the type of man who helped make the country great, contrary to the ugly rhetoric being used by our president who thinks he can make America great again by smearing African nations and Haiti with ugly names,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) — who along with Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), Ald. Milly Santiago (31th); Ald. George Cardenas (12th); Ald. Danny Solis (25th); and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) — is a member of the Veteran Caucus.
“This is a classic example of an American immigrant story,” said Burke. “His 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.
“He felt honored serving in the U.S. Army,” said Whitfield. “Whenever we’d talk, he said he wanted to be buried at Arlington. I said I would look into it. He used to marvel nothing happened to him during the war. Bullets would fly by. He felt God was with him. He was never injured and everyone around him was being shot.”
Added Burke: “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.”
Chop shop . . .
Sneed hears Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was stunned when he found out his dinner partner Thursday night got axed Friday.
• The back shot: Johnson dined at Shaw’s eatery with Baltimore Police chief Kevin Davis, an old friend attending a crime strategies conference — and comparing their similar struggles during rough times: the Baltimore death of Freddie Gray who suffered injuries while under arrest — and the Chicago Police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
• The buckshot: The next morning, when Davis returned to Baltimore, he was fired.
• The heart shot: “The superintendent felt Kevin Davis is a cop’s cop who cares about Baltimore like he cares about Chicago,” said a police spokesman. “He feels Davis was a mentor to him.”
Dear Joel . . .
You are now a Chicago icon.
And have retired after 40 years as the host of WTTW’s iconic show ‘The Week In Review,’ which you, Joel Weisman, helped create.
Chicago reporters, myself included, loved being on the air with you — minus the traffic jam to get to the station.
You were a signal for us to come ashore and report what we not only knew, but thought.
We met covering the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami when you were a young suit at the Chicago Sun-Times, and I was a pepper-gassed Chicago Tribune reporter covering hippies whispering discomfort sleeping on the ground in Flamingo Park.
It was a signal the flower children were wilting and an era was ending.
I wore filthy cut-offs; you sported a tie. You shouted: “Great job.” I was so flattered.
Next time, Joel, I’ll treat you to Sambuca with three beans at a Greek restaurant as we did eons ago at the long gone Diana’s grocery to talk about Harry Romanoff and A.A. Dornfeld, and the days we were taught not even to trust our mothers — and how to impersonate cops.
But now that you are a hotshot lawyer, I’ll expect you to buy dinner with Analee’s permission, of course.
Sneedlings . . .
I spy: Chicago Blackhawk Anthony Duclair spotted at Gibsons Italia on Wednesday. . . Saturday’s birthdays: Buzz Aldrin, 88; Bill Maher, 62; and Stacey Dash, 51. . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Emma Bunton, 42; Brandon Crawford, 31; and Geena Davis, 62.