CHICAGO -- Mayor Harold Washington, who overcame the city's legendary Democratic machine to become its first black mayor, died Wednesday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital about 2 hours after suffering a massive heart attack his City Hall office. He was 65.
'It is my sad responsibility to let you know that Mayor Washington was pronounced dead this afternoon at 1:36 p.m.,' Washington's press secretary, Alton Miller, told reporters at the hospital.
Miller said Washington collapsed at his desk around 11 a.m. Paramedics arrived within minutes, ripped the mayor's shirt open and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Washington was wheeled, unconscious, from his office to a Fire Department ambulance and rushed to Northwestern Memorial.
The mayor had no vital signs when he arrived at the hospital and his heartbeat and respiration could not be restored, said Dr. John Sanders, chief of staff at the hospital. Washington was kept alive only by a heart-lung machine.
'He was unconscious from the time he slumped over at his desk until the time he was pronounced dead,' Sanders said. Doctors gave up life-saving efforts at 1:36 p.m., he said.
As the official announcement spread, hundreds of people gathered at Daley Center Plaza next to City Hall and held a prayer vigil. Many cried when informed that Washington was dead.
Political leaders from around the world offered their condolences.
'Harold Washington will truly be missed, not only by the people of Chicago, but also by many across the country for whom he provided leadership on urban issues,' President Reagan said in a statement from his ranch in California.
'Harold Washington's death represents a tragic loss to Chicago, to the nation and to all black citizens in particular,' said John Jacob, president of the New York-based National Urban League.
'He was an outstanding congressman and an outstanding mayor, and the civil rights movement in America has lost one of its greatest and most respected leaders,' said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
'The mayor brought the city of Chicago closer together. Harold Washington was a hero in his own time,' said friend and political ally Alderman Danny Davis.
Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, reached in Kuwait, said he would immediately return to Chicago for the funeral, adding, 'This is one of the saddest days of my life.'
Alderman David Orr, the vice mayor, told reporters at the hospital that he had taken over as interim mayor and will serve until the City Council elects one of its members as acting mayor.
Hospital officials said Washington -- the first mayor elected to a second term since Richard J. Daley -- suffered 'full cardiac arrest.'
Results of an autopsy performed Wednesday night showed the cause of death was a massive heart attack.
The death certificate listed the cause of death as acute coronary thrombosis -- a clot in the heart artery -- and coronary atherosclerosis, blockage of the coronary artery by fat and calcium deposits. Cook County Coroner Robert Stein said Washington's coronary artery was 90 percent to 95 percent blocked by such deposits.
Mary Ella Smith, the mayor's fiance since 1983, and Ramon Price, Washington's half-brother, were at the mayor's bedside when he was pronounced dead, officials said. He said funeral arrangements had not yet been made.
Miller said the mayor had just returned from ground-breaking cerermonies for a new housing project on the South Side and was sitting at his desk when he collapsed.
'Slightly after 11 a.m., (Washington) slumped at his desk,' he said. 'CPR was administered by security aides.'
'He was not conscious. ... He was not conscious from the time he hit the desk at 11:01,' he said.