Jack Siegel, who stood up for Arlington Heights in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and saved Schaumburg from a premature demise during his more than five decades as a municipal attorney, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer.
Siegel, 88, represented the interests of Arlington Heights and Schaumburg in courtrooms and village boardrooms for more than 50 years, earning a reputation as the "dean of Illinois municipal law."
He also served at various times as attorney for Barrington, Bartlett, Evanston, Lombard, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Rosemont, Riverwoods and Skokie, and played a crucial role in the creation of home rule authority for the state's larger communities.
"He was a true friend to the Village of Arlington Heights," said former Mayor Arlene Mulder. "He was the most brilliant man I've ever had the opportunity to work with."
He appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court twice on behalf of suburban towns, an experience he listed among the highlights of his career when celebrating his 50th anniversary with Arlington Heights in 2011.
One of those cases, Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., led to a landmark 1977 ruling upholding a village's right to dictate where multifamily housing could be located.
Siegel's place in Schaumburg's history includes defending a legal challenge to the village's incorporation in the 1950s, drawing up its zoning ordinances and master plan, helping create its park district and writing land-use covenants that protected the status of Spring Valley Nature Center.
"It's safe to say that without Jack Siegel, there wouldn't be a Schaumburg," Mayor Al Larson said.
Siegel, who lived in Wilmette, was first hired by Schaumburg in 1959 and is the only person to have ever held the title of village attorney there. He joined Arlington Heights in 1961.
Other accomplishments included helping then-Arlington Heights Village President John Woods talk Marge Everett into annexing Arlington Park into the village, drafting the home rule provision for the 1970 Illinois Constitution, and working on a two-year plan to move the Chicago Bears to Arlington Park, a deal that never happened.
During Mulder's more than 20 years as Arlington Heights mayor, Siegel would tell stories of his time working with Woods, who was mayor during a great period of growth in the 1960s.
"Those two had the most impact on what we enjoy and are so proud of in Arlington Heights today," Mulder said. "They gave us a blueprint, they gave us an example of how we should do things."
Arlington Heights' village hall now bears Woods' name, and a room inside the facility is named for Siegel.
"Jack was a greatly admired man who many attorneys and municipal leaders held in high regard due to his extensive legal experience and comprehension of the legal intricacies of municipal law," said Mayor Tom Hayes, in a statement. "In working with him for more than 23 years, Jack became a wonderful friend, and I will truly miss him."
Most recently Jack worked as counsel at Holland & Knight LLP in Chicago, where one partner referred to him as the "dean of Illinois municipal law," according to an Arlington Heights release.
"Although mostly behind the scenes, Jack had an integral role in helping Arlington Heights develop and grow into the wonderful community it is today," Hayes said. "His exceptional legal advice and guidance for the 53 years he served as village attorney is greatly appreciated by the Arlington Heights Village Board and staff. He was an inspiration to many, and will be deeply missed."
Siegel never retired and continued to attend village board meetings well into his 80s.
He had been fighting cancer for some time, and although it became too difficult for him to continue attending board meetings in the past year, Mulder said his mind was sharp until the end.
"The man had the most incredible memory and recall. He was like an encyclopedia," she said.
Larson said Siegel never seemed the retiring type.
"I don't think he ever wanted to retire," he said. "I think the clash of ideas was something that stimulated him."
And Siegel's sharp legal mind could transform the normally kind man into a force to be reckoned with in a courtroom, Larson said.
"He was a ferocious defender," he said. "This mild-mannered, soft-spoken man ... you'd take him to court and he'd tear you apart."
Outside of work, Mulder said Siegel had a great sense of humor and a strong love for his longtime wife Jeanie and their children, Phillip and Julie, and their grandchildren.
According to Schaumburg officials, Siegel received his law degree from the University of Chicago Law School and his Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago.
After graduating, Siegel served on various housing and planning councils and committees, including positions as staff member of the Housing Committee of the Chicago City Council, staff attorney for the Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council of Chicago, consultant to President Dwight Eisenhower's Advisory Committee on Housing, and staff member of the Chicago Home Rule Commission.
Siegel also was a member of the Citizens Committee on Constitutional Implementation, appointed by the governor of Illinois following the adoption of the 1970 Constitution and the Commission on Urban Area Government.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.