The Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights, last Saturday, honored Larry Kennon who recently retired from the practice of law with the firm of Power & Dixon. Kennon also celebrated his 80th birthday, and the organization felt he should be honored for his many years of dedicated service. He was feted at Roosevelt Place, 1401 W. Roosevelt.
Master of ceremonies for the event was Cliff Kelley, host of the Cliff Kelly Show on WVON 1690 AM. Kelley, a former alderman in Chicago, is never at a loss for words and kept everyone laughing with his many jokes and stories.
Kennon was raised on the West Side and attended Crane Technical High School before going on to the Chicago city colleges and the DePaul University School of Law. Following a stint in the U.S. Army, he joined the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. During the 1950s and ’60s, he represented civil right activists and organizations, including the NAACP, ACLU, Black Panthers and the African-American Patrolmen’s League.
“I have reached the age of 80,” Kennon said, “and when you become 80, you look at life in a different way. I have not retired from the struggle.”
Those making remarks at Saturday’s event included historian and author Timuel Black, professor emeritus at Harold Washington College; and fellow attorneys Marian Perkins, president of the Cook County Bar Association; and Stan Willis, who worked with Kennon on the Jon Burge police brutality case.
Black said he’s known Kennon since the attorney graduated from law school.
“He has been someone who is an inspiration and a model that I can follow, and all the young people – white, black or brown,” he said. “I would say if you want to make this a better world, this is the guy who will help you understand how to do that.”
Kennon’s brother, Howard, talked about why his older brother chose to enter law.
“He likes to talk, and I understand some of that started in eighth grade.”
Of his legal partner, Stan Willis said: “When you finish law school, you start on a course of privilege in some ways. At some point you have to make a decision about whose interests you are going to advance. Nelson Mandela went to law school and became a lawyer – we know the decision he made. Larry Kennon went to law school and became a most wonderful lawyer. … He’s the one who fought against the death penalty; he’s the one who fought against Jon Burge. All lawyers don’t do that, black or white. I make a motion that Larry Kennon should not be allowed to retire, unless he makes a pledge that he will only retire from going to the office, but will continue to devote himself to fighting his struggle on behalf of the people.”
Attorney James Montgomery added, “It’s good to be among people who pay tribute to some of our leaders who are still alive. It’s good because it gives a person some degree of recompense for what he’s done for all of us. Larry, you have really done a wonderful job for your community, for your legal profession and certainly you have not necessarily done so for the money. You’ve done so many times without a dime being paid. You’ve done it because you believe, like Thurgood Marshall did, that lawyers should be social engineers and not entrepreneurs. And so we thank you for your hard work, thank you for your sacrifice. We wish you many years of life and good health.”