Sawyer's brother, John, confirmed the former mayor died Saturday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
John Sawyer said his brother, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1989, had been inspired by his predecessor, Mayor Harold Washington, to help improve the Illinois metropolis.
"After Mayor Washington died, Eugene was very interested in healing," John Sawyer said of Washington's 1987 death. "He talked about making Chicago a world-class city."
Former Chicago Alderman Bob Shaw remembered Sawyer as a calm politician, despite the controversy caused by his Caucasian and African-American supporters.
"Gene was an easygoing guy," the alderman told the Chicago Sun-Times of the city's second African-American mayor. "He didn't like controversy. I guess that's the way he came up in the old politics."
After being defeated by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1989, Sawyer moved into the private sector where he worked until 1998 when he suffered his first stroke.