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Sharon Gist Gilliam

Sharon Gist Gilliam was born on August 24, 1943 in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of three siblings Gilliam was raised in the Chicago neighborhoods of West Chesterfield and Lawndale. Gilliam’s parents Mr. Arthur C. Gist and Vivian M. Gist, were small business owners. She attended Burnside Elementary School and graduated from St. Mary High School in 1961. In 1965, she received her B.A. degree in history at Mundelein College. Gilliam also completed coursework in the graduate department of Public Management at DePaul University. Gilliam then became a history teacher from 1965 to 1968 in the Chicago Public School System.

Gilliam worked with the City of Chicago’s Committee on Urban Opportunity in 1968 as a social planner for the poverty program. Between the years of 1973 and 1979, Gilliam became Assistant Budget Director Commissioner of Consumer Services for the City of Chicago. She then moved to Washington, D.C. and became assistant budget director for the local city government. In 1983, Gilliam relocated back to Chicago and worked as the Budget Director/Chief Operating Officer (COO) for the City of Chicago under then Mayor Harold Washington. As COO, Gilliam was responsible for policy implementation and an operating budget of $4 billion. In 1989, Gilliam received the Marks of Excellence Award from the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

In 1989, Gilliam also became the executive vice president of the management consulting firm of Unison-Maximus. In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley appointed Gilliam to serve as the commissioner and chairperson of the Chicago Housing Authority until July 2009.

Today, Gilliam is principal at UCG Associates, a management consulting firm. She is Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Housing Authority and serves as a board member for several organizations including Mundelein College; Illinois State Board of Education; Chicago Board of Education; and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Sharon Gist Gilliam was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 8, 2006.

Gilliam passed away on February 16, 2020.

Accession Number

A2006.034

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

3/8/2006

Last Name

Gilliam

Maker Category
Middle Name

Gist

Schools

St. Mary High School

Burnside Elementary Scholastic Academy

William Cullen Bryant School

Mundelein College

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Sharon

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

GIL04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Quote

And This Too Shall Pass.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/24/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Ice Cream, Potatoes (Mashed)

Death Date

2/16/2020

Short Description

Management executive and city government appointee Sharon Gist Gilliam (1943 - 2020) is the former budget director for the City of Chicago and Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Employment

Farragut High School

Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunities

Model Cities Chicago

City of Chicago

City of Washington, D.C.

Unison-Maximus

Favorite Color

Pink, Rose

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580058">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam narrates her photographs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580059">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Sharon Gist Gilliam's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580060">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580061">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580062">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her maternal grandmother's family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580063">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her maternal grandfather's family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580064">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her mother's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580065">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her father's siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580066">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her father and uncle's tax strategy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580067">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents' college experience</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580068">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580069">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents and her likeness to her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580070">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers West Chesterfield in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580071">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her parents' move to West Chesterfield in Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580072">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the history of her neighborhood in Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580073">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580074">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers moving into her father's store</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580075">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her father's decision to purchase a tavern</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580076">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls working in her father's store</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580077">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her childhood experiences with white people</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580078">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls schools she attended</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580079">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls transferring to St. Mary High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580080">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes St. Mary High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580081">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her decision to attend Chicago's Mundelein College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580082">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes Mundelein College in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580083">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers taking on a second job during college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580084">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming a certified teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580085">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the demographics of Farragut High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580086">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers becoming an urban life advisor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580087">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her work for the Committee on Urban Opportunity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580088">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Committee on Urban Opportunity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580089">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the 1968 Chicago riots</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580090">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls teaching night school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580091">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Model Cities program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580092">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam explains how Erwin France used the Hatch Act to avoid Chicago politics</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580093">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls joining the Chicago city budget office</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580094">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remember Mayor Richard J. Daley's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580095">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming acting commissioner of consumer sales, weights and measures, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580096">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls becoming acting commissioner of consumer sales, weights, and measures, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580097">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam explains what she learned as assistant budget director</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580098">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her role as assistant budget director</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580099">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers working for Marian Barry in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580100">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her complaints about working in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580101">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls what she learned in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580102">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Sharon Gist Gilliam compares the governments of Washington, D.C. and Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580103">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her return to the Chicago city government</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580104">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls the Chicago council wars</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580105">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her coworkers in Chicago's mayoral office</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580106">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls overhauling the Chicago budget with David F. Schultz</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580107">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers becoming Chicago's budget director</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580108">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers working for Mayor Harold Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580109">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers pushing for a mandatory retirement age</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580110">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls why she enjoyed serving as budget director</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580111">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the challenges she faced as budget director</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580112">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers the death of Mayor Harold Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580113">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her job as Chicago's chief operating officer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580114">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls the fallout from Steve Cokely's anti-Semitic remarks</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580115">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the changes she made to Chicago's budget</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580116">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam remembers Mayor Eugene Sawyer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580117">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls leaving the public sector</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580118">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her consulting firm, Unison-Maximus, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580119">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls milestones at Unison-Maximus, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580120">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the strengths of Unison-Maximus, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580121">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her appointments to civic boards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580122">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls serving on the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580123">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls serving on the Illinois State Board of Education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580124">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Housing Authority's history, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580125">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the Chicago Housing Authority's history, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580126">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Sharon Gist Gilliam talks about the Chicago Housing Authority's agreement to improve public housing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580127">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her goals for the Chicago Housing Authority</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580128">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes the state of Chicago's public housing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580129">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists her activities in the public and private sectors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580130">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Sharon Gist Gilliam lists the board memberships she enjoys most</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580131">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Sharon Gist Gilliam describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580132">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580133">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/580134">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Sharon Gist Gilliam reflects upon her family's expectations</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

9$4

DATitle
Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls working in her father's store
Sharon Gist Gilliam recalls her work for the Committee on Urban Opportunity
Transcript
You know and I grew up working in a grocery store you know, as a little kid you stocked the lower shelves. Back in the day when there, when soda pop was sold in bottles all those bottles had to be sorted when they came, when people brought them back for their deposits. Well as a little kid that was one of your first jobs, was sorting pop bottles into the correct shelves. You know the Coke [Coca-Cola] bottles gotta go on the Coke shelves so they can go back with the Coke man and the Pepsi [Pepsi-Cola; Pepsi] and all of that so you know as kids that's what we did until you got tall enough to reach the counter and then you could add stuff up on the adding machine and learn to use the cash register and you know, so there was any number of little activities to keep us, and we didn't know, me and my sisters [Myra Gist and Vivian Gist Spencer], we didn't know from hanging out. You know there was work to be done (laughter) in the businesses and all of us at one time or another worked in one or another of those businesses. Now once they went into the tavern business you couldn't work there 'cause you were too young you know under the liquor licensing laws so but most of the time growing up he always had a grocery and package liquor where you could work and--I mean it was good experience because I mean because you were family. Yeah you may have been a teenager but if he or my mother [Vivian Montgomery Gist] weren't there you may have been fifteen years old, sixteen years old, you were in charge, responsible and accountable for that store. You supervised whatever employee who was there, you may have been fifteen and they were forty-five but I mean it was up to you to see that they were there, they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. You were the one who took in any deliveries, reviewed those invoices and paid the delivery person.$Good Lord but what we did as an urban life advisor, what I did was interviewed folks who were having trouble--whatever their life troubles were which typically at the time--there were--at one point I thought that surely the entire State of Mississippi had been depopulated, because all of those people were on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois], half of them living in their cars and looking for work (laughter), but you could come to an urban progress center and you could apply--they were co-located there, CCDPA, the old Cook County Department of Public Aid, which--whose job has now been taken over by the Illinois Department of Public Aid [Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services]. You had--the job training folks were there, they were all here in this one building. So you could come in and make application for all of these services, you know it's--current people talk about oh, let's do these multiservice centers and there are no new ideas, you know. Been there, done that so people came in and they saw us urban life advisors when they had various and sundry problems. They couldn't get their kids in a school, they needed to know where to get this, that or other kind of help, you know we had our handy Blue Book [Social Service Directory] there, which was put out by the Welfare Council of Metropolitan Chicago which listed every single social service known to man, because remember there is no Internet yet (laughter), so you, you actually had directories and things, and you dealt with CCDPA, the--because that was back in the day when people actually had a social worker, a case worker who figured out their grant amount based on you know what their rent was, the number of kids they had, a whole bunch of other things. So you were forever having to deal with CCDPA to advocate on behalf of these people and try and straighten out stuff that case workers had either had not done or screwed up, help people get food stamps, deal with the CHA [Chicago Housing Authority] you know I mean there-- it was actually possible then to get housing, deal with that and what we were is--even though we didn't necessarily have a social services background, what you had were people with college degrees, who could go through all these directories and figure out how to get through the bureaucracy. I mean that's what we could do and that's what we did and you know. I happened to share an office with a girl, Karen Ivy [ph.] who had worked for CCDPA and she, she taught me you know (laughter) really how you dealt with and got through that bureaucracy to try and help people get you know what at the time you believed they were entitled to. Remember this is the '60s [1960s], we're children of the '60s [1960s] with the mentality that folks here, the government, folks are entitled to all of this service and somebody ought to beat on the head of the government and make them provide it, you know (laughter), give these people their food stamps.