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Democratic loyalist Eddie L. McCann Jr. dead at 66

Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st) stands on the right next to his chief of staff, Eddie L. McCann Jr.

In 2008, when Jennifer Hudson went to the morgue to identify the body of Julian King, her murdered 7-year-old nephew, Eddie L. McCann Jr. comforted her and helped arrange a decoy vehicle to distract a media swarm from her car.

And he called police to get “paparazzi” removed from a nearby roof, said Sean Howard, a former spokesman for Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who worked with Mr. McCann at the morgue that day.

“He was very helpful and he was very knowledgeable about the political Who’s Who — and Who’s Not — in town,” said Bob Shaw, a retired alderman and county official. “If you wanted to meet someone, he was the person to see and he would arrange it.”

An ally of Todd Stroger and his father, John, Mr. McCann worked as an investigator at the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, as a Chicago Police officer and as a deputy chief of the Cook County Forest Preserve Police.

When he died Saturday of congestive heart failure at Advocate Christ Hospital, Mr. McCann, 66, was chief of staff to Ald. Howard B. Brookins Jr. (21st).

His father, the late Eddie McCann Sr., a CHA engineer and deputy county sheriff, was a friend of John Stroger. Young Eddie graduated from Morgan Park High School and Northeastern University.

He learned to be a precinct captain by working for Ralph Metcalfe, a track hero of the 1936 Berlin Olympics who rose to be a congressman. “If you weren’t frostbitten from campaigning,” Howard said, “Ed didn’t want to talk to you because you hadn’t earned your stripes.”

Mr. McCann’s godfather was the influential civil rights leader Louis Henry Ford, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ. Like Bishop Ford, Eddie McCann “had a keen interest in improving conditions for black people,” said his son, Pastor Charles Ford.

By 2002, when he retired from the Chicago Police Department after 23 years of service, he had received a number of commendations for capturing armed robbers, some of who were preying on people going to church, Howard said.

Mr. McCann always seemed to know whom to call — and when, Brookins said. “If there was an issue with respect to guys hanging out on the corner, people might say, well, call the watch commander,” the alderman said. “But he knew the exact person for the exact watch who could take care of that particular problem.”

When Pat Quinn was in the middle of a foundering political campaign, “Eddie pulled everybody together with every [church] denomination,” Brookins said. “Within a couple of days, he pulled together a ministers’ breakfast that was well-attended and the governor was well-received.”

“He helped many elected officials, taking them around to the various churches,” said former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who plans to speak at the funeral. “He connected a lot of people. That was his forte.”

“He had a particular set of skills in people,” said Brookins, echoing the lines from a Liam Neeson action film. “Either you liked Eddie or you hated him. There was never any in-between. Even if you hated him, you respected him.”

Mr. McCann ran unsuccessfully for alderman in 1995 and 1999.

A massive 6-foot-4, he will be missed by a multitude of restaurant owners, according to Shaw and Howard. A favorite was Izola’s on 79th Street. “If he was waiting for biscuits to come out” of the kitchen, Howard said, it didn’t matter if he had an appointment. “We had to wait for the biscuits.”

A news reporter who saw Mr. McCann head repeatedly to the same tavern mistakenly thought he might have a drinking problem, Howard said. But closer inspection showed that the only thing on Mr. McCann’s table was dinner. He just liked the food.

He enjoyed going out on Lake Michigan on his boat, “Another Chance,” and vacations in Florida.

He is survived by his wife, Annette; his children, Terrance and Kathy; a sister, also named Annette; a brother, Bernard, and three grandchildren.

A wake is planned at 2 p.m. Sunday with a 3 p.m. service to follow at Life Center Church of God in Christ, 5500 S. Indiana. Ten COGIC bishops from around the state are expected to attend.