Paul McGrath, a longtime photographer for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin; a veteran reporter in Chicago; and a key figure in the election of Jane Byrne as mayor in 1979, died late Wednesday night.
McGrath, 75, died in Northwestern Memorial Hospital after an "aortic rupture," said his daughter, Kelly McGrath.
He had been rushed to the hospital on July 10 because of an aneurysm in his aorta, Kelly said.
In his career, McGrath worked as a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. And he worked as a writer for Chicago magazine.
As a photographer for the Law Bulletin in recent years, McGrath was well-known in law firms.
He also became a fixture at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where he took photos of judges being formally installed on the bench, students learning about the justice system and foreign jurists and lawyers meeting with their American counterparts.
His work was so well-known and liked that court officials asked for him by name.
Chief U.S. District Judge James F. Holderman of the Northern District of Illinois described McGrath as an "institution."
"For many years, he was the photographer on the scene at swearing-in ceremonies and other courthouse events for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin," Holderman said.
"He was a wonderful man to be with. He was an outstanding photographer, always capturing the essence and the emotions of the scenes he photographed."
Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said McGrath "was a very human, human being, a kind man."
Olivia Clarke, editor of the Law Bulletin, said many people knew McGrath and he would stop to greet people at events he covered.
"My favorite photos he took were his portraits and his photos of judges being sworn in," she said.
"He had this way of capturing emotion and could relax any subject in front of the lens. I will miss him because he was so easy to work with and really enjoyed photography and telling stories with photos. I considered him part of the Law Bulletin staff."
Bernard Judge, retired editor and publisher of the Law Bulletin, said he and McGrath worked together as beginning reporters at the City News Bureau in 1965.
"You knew he was going to be good," Judge said.
McGrath soon went to the Tribune and so did Judge.
During the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago that became notorious for clashes between police and demonstrators, McGrath "was the primary rewrite guy for all the stories on what was going on out in the street," Judge said.
"He was demanding, but he was good and you knew the stuff was not going to get messed up by him."
The Sun-Times later hired McGrath, Judge said. McGrath worked as a reporter at the Sun-Times until 1978, when the parent company of the Sun-Times laid off many reporters.
As a reporter, McGrath covered then-Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jane Byrne. McGrath interviewed her in 1978 for a story in Chicago magazine while she was running for mayor.
Byrne asked McGrath to join her campaign, McGrath said in a 1983 article in the Chicago Reader by Michael Miner.
McGrath declined at first, but he said he did throw a party for her. There, he introduced her to a number of people, including political consultant Don Rose.
McGrath "is responsible for getting me into the Jane Byrne campaign," Rose said. Rose said he became campaign manager.
Soon, McGrath, too, joined the Byrne campaign.
Attorney William J. Griffin, who was at one time Byrne's chief of staff, said, "Paul played an important role as director of Jane Byrne's 1979 mayoral campaign.
"After her victory, Paul was appointed chief of staff. … In the early days of the administration, Paul was committed to a reform agenda. He was very bright and capable."
Griffin later replaced McGrath and McGrath became a political adviser to Byrne.
McGrath was raised in Chicago in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, said his sister, Eileen Jankovsky.
"He actually was a photographer first," his daughter, Kelly, said. "He had his own shop on the Northwest Side" before he entered the news business.
"He was a very strong minded individual," his sister said.
"My father had so many gifts, warmth, incredible intelligence, real generosity, and a truly wicked sense of humor," Kelly said. "But most important to me were his strong principles and unshakable sense of right.
"It is a wonderful legacy to his daughters and his granddaughter, one I believe that will endure for generations to come."
Byrne said McGrath "worked very hard" in her campaign "and he brought in many volunteers who joined after he chatted with them. He was a jack of all trades at all times."
McGrath is survived by a daughter, Molly, and a granddaughter, Maggie McCullough, in addition to his daughter, Kelly, and sister, Eileen.
Services are being arranged.