Chicago activist with West Side roots dies at 75

Iola McGowan, who was involved with the Chicago Park District and the state Democratic Party, died Thursday

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Iola McGowan, a former Chicago Park District commissioner and vice chair of the Illinois State Democratic Party, died Thursday at the age of 75.

McGowan was proud of her West Side roots and was known as the First Lady of the West Side, according to her family and an online memorial page. She got involved in local government and ascended the Democratic Party's ranks to become the director of Consumer Services for the City of Chicago under Mayor Jane Byrne. During that six-year term, McGowan headed the Model Cities Community Services program and developed a classroom coloring book aimed at teaching kids how to buy food. The book was adopted by the Federal Food Program, the memorial page said.

In addition to her service with the park district and the Democratic Party, she was a member of the National Organization of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs. She was also part of a Chicago Council on Fine Arts development program for the Austin area, and the Chicago Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

Funeral services will be Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon at First Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1124 S. Ashland Ave.

-Devin Rose

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