Bill Hood, a lawyer, lobbyist and philanthropist, dead at 78

Insatiable curiosity led Hood to become a photographer, an investigative reporter, an attorney, a lobbyist, an airline executive, an arts patron and a Francophile.

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William Hood

William Hood

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As a boy, Bill Hood buried himself in books.

They were his window to the world outside his small town in central Illinois.

His library card suffered from fatigue. At bedtime, he grabbed a flashlight and read under the covers.

Insatiable curiosity led him to become a photographer, an investigative reporter, an attorney, a lobbyist, an airline executive, an arts patron and a Francophile.

Bill Hood, 78, died Christmas Day of cancer.

Mr. Hood worked as a photographer at local newspapers to help put himself through Illinois College. In 1968 he worked as the photographer on Illinois Attorney General William Clark’s campaign to unseat former U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, but, most memorably, found himself photographing scenes of violence that played out during the Democratic National Convention.

The next year he graduated from Northwestern University’s Law School and took a job as an investigative reporter with the Better Government Association.

Mr. Hood went on to work as a lobbyist for Continental Bank, where he was instrumental in shepherding the passage of legislation that lifted restrictions that prevented banks from opening multiple branches.

Mr. Hood later worked at American Airlines as managing director of government affairs, where he represented the company on multiple civic and charitable boards.

One of his greatest passions was supporting the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“When he was on the MCA board, American Airlines became a travel partner, or sponsor, and what they gave them was free travel privileges for the curators, allowing them to visit artists all over the world,” said his wife, Vicki Hood. “Travel was a huge expense, and then to bring art back to Chicago, Bill also arranged for that transportation, too.”

Mr. Hood’s son, Elliott Hood, an attorney who lives in Colorado, has fond memories of tagging along with his dad to work events and realizing later in life that his dad knew most of the city’s and state’s major players.

“Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mayor Jane Byrne, U.S. Sen Dick Durbin to name a few. I went to a golf event once with my dad and met Michael Jordan. It was a cool thing as a kid,” he said.

When Mr. Hood retired about 10 years ago he focused on his love of French cuisine and culture.

“Paris was clearly his favorite city, and as a retirement present, I rented him an apartment for three months in Paris,” Vicki Hood said. “He tried really hard, never learned the language, but he knew all the good words. And he was a great chef. He enjoyed so much going to the grocery and buying local produce and coming home to cook.”

The couple met at the BGA when she was an intern.

“He said it was an intern story that turned out well,” said Vicki Hood, an attorney who retired after a career with Kirkland and Ellis. “We traveled the world, and it was always the two of us together. We did everything together. It was so fantastic.”

Former Sun-Times entertainment columnist Bill Zwecker counted Mr. Hood as a close friend.

“I know the term ‘Renaissance man’ is probably overused, but his interests were universal,” Zwecker said. “You could talk to him about anything, and he had knowledge about it, an encyclopedic degree of knowledge. He always had a stack of books he was working his way through. He truly did have a great life.”

Funeral services are private.

In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Hood is survived by his son Tyler, four grandchildren and his sister, Martha Smith.

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