Abner Mikva, Wisconsin native who mentored Obama, dies at 90 | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Abner Mikva, Wisconsin native who mentored Obama, dies at 90

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

CHICAGO – Abner Mikva, a Milwaukee-born federal judge, congressman and mentor to President Obama, died on Monday, July 4. He was 90.

Mikva died in Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune. His political career, spanning five decades, saw him serve in state and national office as well as all three branches of government. Among those he mentored were President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan and Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-Illinois).

In 2014, Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, to Mikva.

“When I was graduating law school, Ab encouraged me to pursue public service,” Obama said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “He saw something in me that I didn’t yet see in myself, but I know why he did it — Ab represented the best of public service himself and he believed in empowering the next generation of young people to shape our country.”

Mikva was born in 1926 in Milwaukee to Jewish immigrants from present-day Ukraine. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, according to the New York Times.

He was first elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1956, and became a member of Congress in 1969. He served five terms in the House of Representatives until 1979, when President Jimmy Carter appointed him as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He served there for 15 years, including five years as chief judge. In 1994, President Bill Clinton made him White House counsel.

He is survived by three daughters and seven grandchildren.

The Chronicle contributed to this story.