Lee Holloway, former Milwaukee County Board chairman, passes

March 22, 2018

Lee Holloway, a long-time Milwaukee County Board supervisor and chairman, was a blunt and liberal representative of his 5th District residents.

Holloway described himself as “the product of blue-collar, working-class people.”

As a politician, Holloway was known to be bombastic and successful. In his time at the courthouse, he led efforts to create a county general assistance medical program — a health safety net — that subsequently was expanded statewide as Badger Care. He also took credit for the successful effort to win voter approval of a county sales tax increase in a 2008 referendum.

Holloway died Wednesday, March 14, 2018. He was 71.

Holloway was elected in 1992 to represent the board’s 5th District on Milwaukee’s north side. He served as a county supervisor for 20 years and held the post of board chairman from 2004 to 2012.

Holloway assumed the office of county executive in December 2010 after Scott Walker’s election as governor. One month later, he appointed former Milwaukee Common Council President Marvin Pratt as interim county executive.

“While we had our occasional political differences, I enjoyed working with Chairman Holloway during my time at the county,” Walker said in a statement. “He had a real passion for his work.”

County Executive Chris Abele recognized Holloway’s service to the county.

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to the friends and family of Lee Holloway,” Abele said Thursday. “As the first African American chair of the Milwaukee County Board, and the first African American county executive of Milwaukee County, his leadership and dedication to the people of Milwaukee County will not be forgotten.”

Earl Ingram, Jr., who hosts a radio show on News/Talk 1510 AM, said he first met Holloway in the late 1960s.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Lee was a great racquetball player,” Ingram said. “He played at what used to be the YMCA on 12th and Garfield.”

Ingram said he and other young African Americans admired Holloway because he could never be forced to say something he didn’t want to say.

“Lee spoke his mind,” Ingram said. “He didn’t care who was there and we loved to see him stand right in the face of newscasters and white people and say what he wanted to say.”

Holloway also remained visible in the community, Ingram said.

“He believed that it was important for politicians, especially black ones, to be visible,” Ingram said. “He was one of us.”

On Holloway’s eight-year tenure as the County Board’s first African American chair, Ingram said: “This came at a time when we didn’t have a large representation of people who looked like us in politics.”

While Holloway was beloved in the community, he was not perfect, Ingram said.

He survived a 2003 recall attempt after the county pension scandal and retained his chairmanship despite an attempt to oust him in 2007.

Holloway played high school football in Milwaukee and was given a college scholarship to the University of Arkansas, where he played football and graduated in 1969.

He received a master’s degree three years later in developmental disabilities from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee.

He worked as a high school guidance counselor and with children with disabilities before taking administrative jobs with the Inner City Development Project and the Milwaukee Comprehensive Community Health Center.

Holloway ran for mayor in 1988, losing a primary to John Norquist and Martin Schreiber. He successfully ran for county supervisor four years later. Holloway retired in 2012 with a $24,672-a-year county pension.

He is survived by his wife, Lynda, and their two children. Services will be held at Chapel Of The Chimes Wisconsin Memorial Park, 13235 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield, WI, on Friday, March 23, 2018, at 11:00 a.m.

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