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Mary Mitchell celebrated for 29 years of ‘speaking truth’ as Sun-Times columnist

Mitchell started at the Sun-Times in the early 1990s, covering education and City Hall before becoming a full-time columnist and editorial board member in 1996.

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell listens as Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during her retirement party at Taste 222, Friday night, Aug. 16, 2019.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell listens as Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during her retirement party at Taste 222, Friday night, Aug. 16, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell’s storied career, one that has spanned nearly three decades at the newspaper, was celebrated Friday by colleagues, politicians and friends.

Mitchell, who decided last month to scale back her workload, is known in Chicago for her fearless voice fighting discrimination, combating domestic violence and holding politicians accountable. She also inspired many by chronicling her battle with breast cancer.

“I want to thank every editor ... for giving me an opportunity to have a voice in the city of Chicago,” Mitchell told those gathered at the Taste 222 restaurant on the Near West Side. “I used to drive my car, look up at the city and say, ‘Oh my God, I got a voice in the city of Chicago. How good is that? How good is that?’”

Mitchell started at the Sun-Times in the early 1990s, covering education and City Hall before becoming a full-time columnist and editorial board member in 1996.

Mitchell’s family was part of the Great Migration, moving from Mississippi to Chicago before Mitchell entered elementary school. An identical twin, she grew up with eight other siblings in public housing on the South Side. She graduated from Dunbar High School in 1967 and spent 20 years working as a legal secretary.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. were among those attending the celebration. Both praised Mitchell for her work.

”First of all, no one can replace you,” Lightfoot said. “You have occupied such an important space, and speaking truth about black folks in particular in our city, that’s so important. The stories that you have told, the challenges that you have issued to us as a collective, nobody else has done that.

”And you are to be celebrated as a great Chicago icon,” the mayor continued. “And I am really, really grateful for everything that you’ve brought and for the path that you’ve blazed for other women of color — and particularly black women — in a really tough industry.”

Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent a video message, calling Mitchell a “voice of compassion.”

Sun-Times Media Interim CEO Nykia Wright thanked Mitchell for promoting and magnifying underrepresented voices.

“I wanted to take the journey to turn around the Chicago Sun-Times with you ... because of what you represented,” Wright said. “Thank you for helping me become a better leader.”

Mitchell’s scaled-back role with the paper began Aug. 1. She’ll continue to attend sessions with the editorial board, the opinion arm of the newspaper. She also will write two or three columns a month.