DOWNTOWN —The late entertainer Bernie Mac, an Englewood native whose 56th birthday would have been Oct. 5, will be honored next week at a health conference at the University of Illinois at Chicago — and with a special, one-time license plate.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had one special license plate designed in the comedian's honor. White will present Mac's widow, Rhonda McCullough, with the special plate that reads "B MAC" at a private ceremony Oct. 2 in White's office at the James R. Thompson Center. McCullough also heads The Bernie Mac Foundation.
"I was talking to some people in my office about how we could honor such a great man, and that's when we came up the license plate idea," recalled White.
McCullough said she was touched to hear about the license plate dedication. The one-of-its -kind plate won't be offered to the public.
"What an honor it is for the State of Illinois to honor my husband in this way," McCullough said. "It is a wonderful feeling to know that people have not forgotten what a wonderful man he was."
White recalled his last conversation with Mac, whose real name was Bernard McCullough, during a 2007 hunting trip in Michigan.
"A lot of people might not know that Bernie Mac was a hunter like me. I was at a hunting range and saw him there," said White. "I remember us talking about how I came to form the Jesse White Tumblers and how he broke into show biz. And despite his international fame, Bernie Mac stayed true to his roots and never forgot where he came from."
But according to McCullough, while Bernie Mac loved putting on hunting gear and going on hunting trips, "He could not bring himself to shoot animals," she said.
McCullough said Bernie Mac would "sleep until 3 o'clock if he could" and enjoyed eating pinto beans, fried chicken and cornbread. "He loved life. That is what I want people to know about my husband," she added.
Mac will also be recognized at a special town hall meeting at the University of Illinois at Chicago on the Near West Side, where experts will meet to discuss research on sarcoidosis, the disease Mac died of in 2008.
Dr. Nadera Sweiss, associate professor of rheumatology at UIC Health, and Dr. Patricia Finn, head of the Medicine Department at the UIC College of Medicine, will participate in the meeting at 10 a.m. Thursday at the UIC College of Nursing, 845 S. Damen Ave.
After the forum, at 1 p.m., there will be a tour of the Bernie Mac STAR Center, which opened last year at the UIC College of Medicine Research Building, 909 S. Wolcott Ave., suite 3060.