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Mayor Jane Byrne: 'No One Else Had The Guts'

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jane Byrne died yesterday in her apartment overlooking the city she loved, riled and entertained. She was elected mayor of Chicago in 1979 - the first woman mayor. Jane Byrne was a descendent of the old Democratic Richard J. Daley machine, but ran as a reformer. Mayor Byrne lasted just a term. Her own administration was plagued by charges of corruption and cronyism. But a few weeks ago, her daughter, Kathy Byrne, joined us to remember her mother's best moment - when a series of murders at the Cabrini-Green Housing Project made the mayor decide to bring more police there by moving in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

KATHY BYRNE: This is eight blocks from my house and it's a different world. And I think as she said those words, it sort of dawned on her that she better get into that world and see what was really happening. She talked it over with my stepfather and they announced the next day they were going to make the move into Cabrini.

SIMON: Mayor Byrne lived in Cabrini-Green for a little more than 20 days. How do you reply to the criticism then and now that it was just a gimmick, it was just a stunt?

BYRNE: Well, it wasn't and if it were, it was a hell of a stunt because nobody else had the guts to do it.

SIMON: Kathy Byrne talking about her mother, Jane Byrne, who died yesterday at the age of 81. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.