Journalist Elizabeth Brackett dies at 76

Her passing draws tributes from colleagues, others

The Chicago journalism community is mourning the loss of Elizabeth Brackett, a journalist best known for her work on Chicago Tonight and other local stations. She passed away Sunday at Stroger hospital days after a bike accident, occurring last Wednesday on the path just east of South Lake Shore Drive near Oakwood Blvd. She was riding when she fell off the bike and fractured the vertebra in her neck.

Her death solicited reaction from numerous colleagues and politicians, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Brackett got her start in the business as a researcher and reporter for WBBM-TV after a failed aldermanic run. After a stint at WGN-TV, she joined WLS-TV during a tumultuous time in Chicago politics as Harold Washington was vying to become the city’s first African-American mayor. Brackett became the Chicago-based Midwest correspondent for PBS’ McNeil/Lerher Newshour in 1984 and began work on Chicago Tonight after the show shifted its bureau to WTTW in 1991.

During her time on the show, Brackett reported on numerous issues, including politics. She also profiled several Chicago figures, including then-State senator Barack Obama. Brackett retired from the daily grind in 2014, but continued to file reports for Chicago Tonight on a limited basis, notably on an issue she was very passionate about: the environment.

In addition to her journalism, Brackett was also an accomplished triathlete, competing in triathlons well into her 70s, winning an impressive five titles in her age group – the last one in Rotterdam last year. She regularly rode her bike down the Lakefront path, as she was doing last Wednesday.

Among the numerous awards Brackett received include a Peabody, an Emmy (for her profile on Obama), two Peter Lisagor Awards, and was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago Television Academy.

She also authored the book Pay to Play: How Rod Blagoveich Turned Political Corruption into a National Sideshow, released in 2009 after the governor was removed from office the year before after he tried to sell Obama’s U.S. senate seat after he was elected President.

Brackett is survived by husband Peter Martinez, two children, two sisters, numerous stepchildren and grandchildren, and six nieces and nephews. Services will be held Wednesday at Kenilworth Union Church in Kenilworth at 1 p.m.