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Voters Elect Two Blacks To City Council After Voting Rights Settlement With PM-Baltimore

September 16, 1987

Voters Elect Two Blacks To City Council After Voting Rights Settlement With PM-Baltimore Election, Bjt

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ One of the first two blacks ever elected to the City Council says residents will have better representation when a new government takes over Saturday in this east-central Illinois city.

″Lots of people - blacks and whites - felt powerless because things were run by a small group ... good old boys,″ said Lester Brown. ″That was just the way things were done until someone challenged the system.″

Blacks filed a voting rights lawsuit, and the settlement called for a switch from the commission form of government to the mayor-aldermanic system.

Voters went to the polls Tuesday and elected the new officials, including two black aldermen, Brown and Eugene Thompson.

″I am elated,″ said Brown, a 49-year-old accountant. ″Most people in my ward feel they finally have someone who represents their interests.″

Thompson, a 61-year-old retired foundry worker, was one of seven blacks who filed the lawsuit in January.

″We just had to prove that blacks could win, and that when given an opportunity to vote for someone, we will,″ Thompson said. ″My whole thing was that we should have two blacks in our ward.″

Brown, who got 555 votes and Thompson, who received 470, won the two seats in their district. Ron Riess, the only white candidate, was third with 435 and Jerry Collier, a black, followed with 278.

In the citywide races, Bob Jones defeated Gerald Arnholt, 5,430 to 4,291, for mayor. Both are white. Herbert Hales Jr. defeated Gayle Brandon, 5,091 to 2,672, for treasurer. Brandon is black.

No black had been elected in 60 years of the mayor-commission form of government, though 16 percent of the city’s 39,000 residents are black.

The four city commissioners were elected at-large, a process that diluted minority voting strength, blacks said. In the new system, two aldermen were elected from each of seven wards.

″This is a good day for the city of Danville,″ Jones said. ″The change in government will get us all working together for better times. People want cooperation.″

Springfield had just lost a similar case when the Danville settlement was worked out by the blacks and city officials and approved by U.S. District Court Judge Harold Baker in February.

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