One of the plaintiffs whose case led to changing Danville to the Mayor-Alderman form of government in the 1980s has died. Eugene ‘Radio’ Thompson died in Indianapolis. He and the late Lester Brown won seats on the Danville City Council in September of 1987 becoming the first blacks to serve on the council. Thompson had also served earlier on the Vermilion County Board. He had earlier retired from the former G.M. Central Foundry plant at Tilton.
‘’Radio was simply a legend,’’ said former Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer upon learning of Thompson’s death. ‘’He was one of the first true community organizers, and fought hard for everyone in the city. He helped lead the charge for civil rights in Danville, fought to change the form of government to be more representative of the community, and then served admirably the residents as alderman,’’ added Eisenhauer.
Alderman Lloyd Randle said Thompson was ”an amazing dedicated and committed public servant to the city of Danville, Vermilion County, and state of Illinois.” And Randle said Thompson was ”an iconic figure not just in politics but in civil rights, (and) his work with the East Central Illinois Community Action Agency.
‘’Radio’’ got that nickname because of the way he would often speak out on issues….back in the 1940s.
Bill Black served with Thompson. ”He was a great help to me when I was County Board chairman,” said Black. ”He was quite a guy and could be a very effective negotiator. And he wouldn’t pound the table and storm off,” added Black. And Black also noted that Thompson was a member of ”The Greatest Generation — and the Danville area has lost some real giants.” He said Thompson was one of those ”in his own way”. Black added, ”I’ll miss those coffees in his kitchen. He knew where a lot of bones were buried in Danville.”
Eisenhauer added he admired Thompson’s ‘’dedication, his passion, and his willingness to make a path rather than follow it. He would often write letters (to then Mayor Eisenhauer) with ‘’the struggle continues,’’ and while the struggle may, I am saddened he will no longer be the one leading the fight to resolve it,’’ said Eisenhauer.