Constable: Taking pointers from Bush, former judge maintains Lake County roots

 
 
Updated 12/10/2018 7:19 AM
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  • Appointed U.S. attorney by President George H.W. Bush, Fred Foreman was vetted by Robert Mueller and has been a player on the national scene. But his roots remain in Lake County.

      Appointed U.S. attorney by President George H.W. Bush, Fred Foreman was vetted by Robert Mueller and has been a player on the national scene. But his roots remain in Lake County. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Fred Foreman built a high-powered career as a lawyer, prosecutor and judge, but he makes his home not far from the two-bedroom Wildwood home where he grew up.

      Fred Foreman built a high-powered career as a lawyer, prosecutor and judge, but he makes his home not far from the two-bedroom Wildwood home where he grew up. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Appointed U.S. attorney by President George H.W. Bush, Fred Foreman, right, enjoyed a personal relationship with Bush and first lady Barbara.

    Appointed U.S. attorney by President George H.W. Bush, Fred Foreman, right, enjoyed a personal relationship with Bush and first lady Barbara. Courtesy of Fred Foreman

  • In 1980, Republicans dominated the Lake County political scene. Circuit Clerk Sally Coffelt, from left, Coroner Mickey Babcox, Treasurer Frank Nustra and State's Attorney Fred Foreman all won easily.

    In 1980, Republicans dominated the Lake County political scene. Circuit Clerk Sally Coffelt, from left, Coroner Mickey Babcox, Treasurer Frank Nustra and State's Attorney Fred Foreman all won easily. Courtesy of Fred Foreman

  • In this gathering of three Illinois Republicans, newcomer Fred Foreman, left, meets with Gov. Jim Thompson and President Ronald Reagan.

    In this gathering of three Illinois Republicans, newcomer Fred Foreman, left, meets with Gov. Jim Thompson and President Ronald Reagan. Courtesy of Fred Foreman

  • Having grow up in a very Republican Lake County that went Democratic in the last election, political heavyweight Fred Foreman says progress is best served when elected officials work together for the people.

      Having grow up in a very Republican Lake County that went Democratic in the last election, political heavyweight Fred Foreman says progress is best served when elected officials work together for the people. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

When he was a fourth-grader, Fred Foreman moved with his family into his grandfather's two-bedroom, one-bathroom converted summer cottage in the Lake County community of Wildwood. Now 70, Foreman lives in a larger home just up the road, surrounded by 200-year-old oak trees and shagbark hickories. During his lifetime of public service, Foreman developed a relationship with former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, who posed for a Foreman family photo that graces the fireplace mantel in Foreman's Gurnee home. Foreman built friendships with Republicans such as Jeff Sessions and Democrats such as Richard M. Daley. And he's watched his beloved Lake County transform from a Republican stronghold to a place where Democrats just won the majority of races.

"I hold no animosity. Let's see what they do," says Foreman, who isn't about to add to the partisan, divisive climate with political attacks. Bursting onto the political scene in 1980 as a young Republican elected Lake County state's attorney, Foreman was appointed U.S. attorney for Northern Illinois in 1990 by the first President Bush. In 1993, Foreman was hired by the Chicago law firm of Freeborn & Peters, where he helped negotiate the state's settlement with the tobacco industry and represented people who testified in the criminal trials against former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

Elected as a Lake County circuit court judge in 2004, Foreman was chosen by his peers as chief judge from 2012 until his retirement in 2014 and led the push that resulted in the building of the Criminal Courts Tower in Waukegan.

"My whole career has been focused on the court side of politics," says Foreman, who remains a senior counsel at Freeborn & Peters.

Born in Oak Park to Donald and Patricia Foreman and living in a two-flat in Berwyn until the move to Lake County, Fred Foreman figured his public service would come as an Air Force officer. A standout football player at Warren Township High School, the 6-foot-6 Foreman, with the sponsorship of legendary Republican U.S. Sen. Everett Dirksen, earned admission to the prestigious United States Air Force Academy, where he played center on the freshman football team. A misdiagnosed broken bone suffered during a game helped lead to the end of his education there and left Foreman with a still-prominent knot on his right wrist.

But he made the most of that disappointment. As a student and football player at Division III Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Foreman met his wife, Stephanie, in 1968. Fulfilling his obligation with the Air Force, Foreman expected to be flying planes in Vietnam, but his unit got only as far as training in Biloxi, Mississippi. Foreman majored in psychology and history, graduated from Carroll in 1970 and married Stephanie in 1971.

Foreman landed a job as a clerk in a Chicago law firm and took night classes at John Marshall Law School. When he and other law school classmates imagined working for then-U.S. Attorney Jim Thompson, a classmate said those jobs went only to lawyers who graduated from fancier law schools and the only way a John Marshall graduate could land a job in that office was if he were appointed by the president.

Foreman did just that in 1990 when the first President Bush tabbed him for U.S. attorney and flew him to Washington, D.C., to be vetted. "The No. 3 guy who was going to vet my nomination was Bob Mueller. He was a great guy," Foreman says of the man who now serves as special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.

Foreman was U.S. attorney from 1990 until 1993, but he made his first impact on the national scene earlier when he was elected president of the National District Attorneys Association. He worked well with friend Daley, the Democrat Cook County state's attorney who went on to serve as Chicago mayor, and made frequent trips to Alabama legal gatherings at the invitation of his friend Sessions to speak about the challenges of fighting gangs, drugs and crime in cities such as Chicago. "I don't know if his views on Chicago have changed," quips Foreman.

Republican Donald Trump played a role in Lake County's blue wave, says Foreman, who adds that he didn't vote for the president or Democrat Hillary Clinton. Foreman says the common good should trump political parties.

"He's a dying breed of a moderate Republican," state Sen. Terry Link, chairman of the Democratic Party in Lake County, says of Foreman, whom he has known and worked with for more than 30 years. "I hope that dying moderate breed comes back. We need more moderate Republicans."

When Foreman hired prosecutor Victoria Rossetti away from DuPage County in 1990, he gave her responsibility, made her feel welcome, and was patient and fair, Rossetti says.

"I really learned how to be a judge from being in that office," says Rossetti, a former chief judge who now serves as the judge in charge of the criminal division in Lake County. "I don't think you could find a man more fair, with higher integrity and a quest for justice and the truth in everything he did. Fred was a statesman. And he never forgot where he came from."

Foreman is active in Lake County charities and the Gurnee Community Church. The only political office Foreman holds now is on the association for the neighborhood in Door County, Wisconsin, where he makes his second home. He can tell stories about the time his father chatted on the phone with President Bush about their World War II service, visits with Sessions in Alabama, or bipartisan dinners with longtime speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, Bush's Chief of Staff Samuel Skinner and Illinois congressman Dan Rostenkowski. But Foreman is happiest talking about his wife of 47 years, their children, Melissa, Christopher and Melanie, and their seven grandchildren all under the age of 7.

"The three most important jobs are husband, father and grandfather," Foreman says, acknowledging that he was told that by President Bush, and loves that his Gurnee home is the frequent site of family gatherings. "We split enough wood to get us through the winter."

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