Former Urbana Mayor Hiram Paley Dies

January 10, 2012

Friends of Hiram Paley are remembering the former Urbana mayor and U of I mathematics professor as a champion of progressive causes. Paley died Monday in Urbana at the age of 78.

Paley, served as Urbana mayor for one term, from 1973 to '77, after serving two terms as alderman. Among the supporters working on his campaign was Urbana's current mayor, Laurel Prussing. Paley would later endorse Prussing in her bid for mayor in 2005. Prussing says one of Paley's accomplishments as mayor was passage of a pioneering ordinance restricting smoking in restaurants.

"Urbana had an ordinance where there had to be a non-smoking section in a restaurant," Prussing said. "Now, the whole state is non-smoking in restaurants. So it's interesting to see how Urbana so often took the lead on a number of issues."

Former Urbana alderwoman Esther Patt credits Paley for helping to pass a wide-ranging anti-discrimination ordinance in Urbana at a time when it was rare for cities to have such things.

Cliff Singer, an Urbana alderman in the 1990s, said he was a teen-age math major when he first met Paley, who supervised him in an individual study program. He said Paley's participation in the program was an example of his willingness to take on extra work to help his students. Singer, who served on the Urbana City Council in the 1990s, said Paley converted the city's financial system over to modern financial practices. When he joined the council, Singer said he helped pass a fiscal policy resolution which further formalized such practices.

"But (Paley) was the one who laid the foundation for Urbana surviving various economic ups and downs much better than many other cities of its size," Singer said.

Paley remained active in local Democratic politics after leaving city government, and was also active in various progressive causes, including the American Civil Liberties Union and pro-choice issues. Patt said one of her fondest memories was Paley was his willingness to criticize the pro-life views of Olney Democrat Terry Bruce, an area congressman from 1985 to '93.

"That was a very important issue to Hiram, and he was not going to give anyone a pass just because they were a Democrat," Patt said.

Paley, a native of Rochester, New York, is survived by his wife Jean, a sister, three children and four grandchildren. Paley's daughter, Nina Paley, is a cartoonist and animator known for her feature film "Sita Sings the Blues."

Heath and Vaughn Funeral Home in Champaign, which is handling arrangements for Hiram Paley said a funeral service are expected to be scheduled later this year.

Story source: WILL