Waukegan City Clerk and former Lake County Coroner Artis Yancey died Wednesday morning, city officials said.
Police and fire crews went to the 54-year-old Yancey's home about 8 a.m. after someone called 911, city spokesman David Motley said. He was struggling to breathe properly, Motley said.
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Yancey was taken to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, but he could not be saved. He was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m.
Funeral arrangements haven't yet been made public.
Yancey was elected clerk in 2013, running on Mayor Wayne Motley's ticket.
"He was a very good and righteous man," said Wayne Motley, who was on the Waukegan police force with Yancey and had known him for more than 20 years.
Yancey served 21 years with the Waukegan Police Department, rising from patrol officer to detective to deputy chief before his appointment as chief in 2009. He held that post until retiring in August 2010.
A Democrat, Yancey was appointed coroner by the Lake County Board in 2011, replacing Richard Keller.
Yancey was the first black person to hold countywide office in Lake County.
As his appointed term as coroner drew to a close in 2012, Yancey ran for the post but lost the Democratic primary to Dr. Thomas Rudd. Rudd eventually won the general election and succeeded Yancey.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor recalled Yancey as a compassionate public servant.
"In all of his roles, Artis worked to make the community a better place," said Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, a Libertyville Republican, got to know Yancey through their previous jobs as attorney and police officer. Curran praised Yancey's police skills Wednesday.
"He was an excellent investigator, an excellent detective," Curran said.
Yancey appeared soft-spoken and mild-mannered in his public roles. That wasn't an act, Curran said.
"There's not another Artis Yancey," he said. "(He was) an authentic friend."
Lake County sheriff's Chief Jennifer Witherspoon, a longtime Yancey friend, agreed.
"What he was is what you saw," she said. "There was nothing phony about him."