The Remarkable Story of Karen A. Yarbrough

The Remarkable Story of Karen A. Yarbrough, The First Black Woman to Serve at Cook County Clerk’s Office

Chicago Mourns Pioneering Public Servant

The city of Chicago and Cook County are mourning the loss of Karen A. Yarbrough, a trailblazing public servant who made history as the first Black woman to serve as Cook County Clerk.

Yarbrough passed away on April 7th at the age of 73, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of dedication and service to her community.

Breaking Barriers, Inspiring Change

Elected in 2018, Yarbrough’s appointment as Cook County Clerk was a monumental achievement, shattering glass ceilings and inspiring generations to come. Her tireless efforts in overseeing elections and maintaining vital records in suburban Cook County paved the way for greater representation and inclusivity in local government.

“She has always been a person with integrity. She joked around a lot, but she was serious. She was really, really serious about the changes that she wanted to make, not only in her community, but the entire county and the state,” said Ald. Derrick Curtis (18th).

A Lifetime of Service and Advocacy

Yarbrough’s remarkable career in public service spanned decades, with roles as an Illinois state representative from 2001 to 2012 and Cook County Recorder of Deeds from 2012 to 2018. Her unwavering commitment to progressive causes, such as fair housing, accessible healthcare, and social justice, left an indelible mark on the communities she served.

“She could teach you how to hug a porcupine, and still love every minute of it, and that is a rarity in politics. It’s a rarity in leadership for someone to be able to be welcoming to all without being divisive, even when you disagree,” said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th).

A Mentor, a Friend, and a Guiding Light

Tributes poured in from Chicago aldermen and community leaders, who remembered Yarbrough as a kind and loving mentor, a friend, and a guiding light.

Her ability to bring people together, even in the face of disagreement, was a testament to her character and leadership.

“Karen was like a mother to me. She hugged us when we needed to be hugged. She chastised us when we needed that, too,” said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), choking back tears.

A Legacy that Endures

As the city and county mourn the loss of this remarkable woman, Mayor Brandon Johnson hailed Yarbrough as a champion for progressive causes, whose love and leadership will endure forever.

Her legacy as a trailblazer and public servant will continue to inspire generations to come, serving as a beacon of hope and a testament to the power of breaking barriers.