October 28, 2021

Charles Connor, former Joliet mayor and chief judge, dies

Charles Connor, a former Joliet mayor who initiated the city’s westward expansion and previously served as chief judge of Will County, died Sunday.

Connor, 90, also was known as an advocate for clean government in the 1980s. He was mayor for one term from 1987 to 1991. Connor had been a Will County judge since 1965 and served as chief judge from 1982 to 1986.

“He always had a goal. He didn’t just run to hold office,” said his son, state Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport.

His accomplishments as chief judge included detaching Kankakee and Iroquois counties so Will County stood alone in the 12th Circuit Court.

Charles Connor was a Republican often at odds with party leadership during the 1980s, when he was a foil to party leader Robert Tezak, a county coroner who later would be indicted in an arson scheme. His father often talked about corruption in the party and the need to find better candidates, John Connor said.

“He thought there should be cleaner alternatives,” John Connor said.

His term as mayor came at a time when Joliet was reeling from the impact of the Rust Belt Recession that decimated manufacturing in the Midwest. Charles Connor believed Joliet had to expand its borders to avoid being eclipsed by neighboring towns, his son said.

“His attitude was Joliet had to grow or die,” John Connor said. “He thought that the only hope for Joliet with manufacturing closing was that we had to expand, expand, expand.”

Joliet Council member Michael Turk, who first was elected in 1987 as Connor took office, remembered him as “a guy of high integrity” and “a very progressive mayor.”

“He is the one who started the annexation westward and southward,” Turk said. “He is the one who had the foresight of going that far west and that far south. We now are the beneficiaries.”

The continued expansion of the city’s westward borders and the building boom that came after Connor was mayor led to Joliet becoming the third largest city in Illinois.

Charles Connor died at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home, where he had spent the last several months. Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, 3200 Black Road, Joliet. A funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. Saturday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Shorewood.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News