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Lincoln Park's 'Every Man' Dickie Harris Honored With Street Name

By Mina Bloom | October 6, 2015 6:09am
Richard "Dickie" Harris is getting a street named in his honor.
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Courtesy/Patty Harris

LINCOLN PARK — Longtime ad man, creative writer and beloved community activist Richard "Dickie" Harris is getting a street named in his honor.

Often referred to as Lincoln Park's "everyman," Harris died of liver cancer in September 2013.

Two years after his death, the southwest corner of Cleveland Avenue and Dickens Street is slated to be renamed "Richard 'Dickie' Harris Way." The ordinance, introduced by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), was recently approved by City Council. A street naming ceremony is slated for Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.

For about 30 years, Harris worked as a creative director for some of the city's top advertising agencies, including FCB, Ogilvy & Mather and Leo Burnett, where he was "hugely responsible for big campaigns," according to his wife, Patty. He was also an attorney, specializing in real estate contract law.

But his true passion, his wife said, was writing plays. Harris was a playwright for the former St. Nicholas Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater and the Organic Theater. The summer he died he had a meeting with the Goodman Theatre, his wife said.

At the same time, Harris was committed to the Lincoln Park community, serving on a number of neighborhood committees, such as Lincoln Central Association's zoning committee, among others.

"He was a fearless leader. There wasn't anything that would make him hedge and think twice out of fear. If he felt a phone call needed to be made, he would make it. He was relentless in his pursuit to get things done," his wife said.

That tireless leadership led to the creation of many community events and activities still in effect today, such as the Winter Dickens Fest, featuring Charles Dickens' great-great granddaughter, Lucinda, as well as the Greater Chicago Tuba Band and horse-drawn carriage rides in the area, among other things.

"He was a one-man show on these things," his wife said. "Other people would say, 'That's a great idea, but I'm too busy,' but it was never a problem with him. Ideas became reality and that's what people were blown away by."

"If you wanted something done [in Lincoln Park], you'd run it by Dickie Harris," she said.

Harris, along with other regulars, is depicted in a mural behind one of his favorite watering holes, Four Farthings Tavern & Grill, 2060 N. Cleveland Ave.

His friend and neighbor, Jeff Conrad, called Harris "remarkable."

"He always had his little glasses on and would be writing notes for a play or a book on a napkin. He was a friend to everyone," Conrad said.

The current president of Lincoln Central Association, Kenneth Dotson, named Harris as one of the reasons he became involved in the neighborhood.

"Dickie's blessing meant a lot to me," Dotson wrote in an email.

Harris, his wife and their kids have lived in Lincoln Park at Dickens Street and Cleveland Avenue since 1979. 

For his wife, the street naming is a testament to her husband's impact on the neighborhood. 

"It's really incredible," she said. "It's just a humbling experience for our family that people are still remembering him two years later."

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