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State Sen. Rickey ‘Hollywood’ Hendon steps down after 18 years

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

SPRINGFIELD — The flamboyant and long-serving state senator from Chicago’s West Side, Rickey Hendon, resigned from office Thursday, ending an 18-year Statehouse career that he claims included a scuffle with President Obama.

“Today is a wonderful day and as much as I have enjoyed working with you and all of my fellow senators, I have decided to call it a day and retire from this wonderful institution,” Hendon wrote in a letter to Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).

Nicknamed “Hollywood” for his TV and film-production aspirations, Hendon, 57, was a member of Cullerton’s leadership team, had hypertension and frequently was a lightening rod for controversy.

Last October, while introducing Gov. Quinn, Hendon lashed out at GOP gubernatorial nominee Bill Brady, describing him as the most “racist, idiotic, sexist, homophobic” person he knew.

Quinn immediately distanced himself from the comments, and Hendon tried to apologize to Brady in December. But Quinn’s one-time rival would not accept Hendon’s apology.

Hendon also faced federal scrutiny for state grants he authorized. Federal subpoenas went to five state agencies last August, seeking copies of contracts and other financial records related to nearly 50 not-for-profit agencies and a dozen individuals, many with direct links to Hendon.

Hendon, the former 27th Ward alderman, has not been charged nor named in the subpoenas. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

At the Capitol, Hendon was known for wearing electric blue suits. While presiding over the Senate, he would whip through the legislative calendar in a sometimes unintelligible, mile-a-minute voice, barely pausing to breathe.

In 2008, Hendon penned a book about his relationship with Obama while he was a state senator. The book, titled, Black Enough/White Enough: The Obama Dilemma, outlined a scuffle he got into with Obama.

The row stemmed from former Gov. George Ryan’s decision to close a child-welfare office in Hendon’s district. Obama voted with Republicans for the cut. Then, when a similar cut in Obama’s district came up for a vote, Hendon sided with Obama but, in a floor speech, questioned why Obama hadn’t felt “the same compassion” for West Side children.

Afterwards, Hendon wrote, Obama came to his desk and “told me in an eerie, dark voice that came from some secret place within the ugly side of him, ‘You embarrassed me on the Senate floor and if you ever do it again, I will kick your ass!’”

Hendon said Obama then challenged him to go to the rear of the Senate chamber out of the eyesight of reporters for a fight, and Hendon did so.

“A little pushing and shoving occurred, laced with profanity too vulgar to write, from both of us, until Sen. Donne Trotter and others separated us,” Hendon wrote.

The incident, Hendon wrote, showed that Obama “will not hesitate to fight on behalf of the United States if it comes down to it, just as he tried to fight me because of his personal beliefs.”

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