Trotter, Donne E. 1950–

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Donne E. Trotter 1950

State senator

Grew up in Politics

Entered the State Legislature

Legislature Agenda


Donne E. Trotter followed his parents example of social activism by becoming a public servant for the City of Chicago as well as the state of Illinois. Trotters most powerful battles were waged for two laws passed in Illinois: an assault weapons ban and child care legislation. The first ban on assault weapons was passed in 1989 while Trotter was a state representative. KidCare is a comprehensive insurance program for all Illinois children. It provided coverage for those up to 18 years of age, and Trotter and his colleagues are working to have the program expanded to adults. To me, that is the priority of this community, he said in an article for the Commercial Appeal,if youre not healthy, youre not going to learn, youre not going to work, youre not living a good life in retirement.

Grew up in Politics

Trotter was born in Cairo, Illinois, on January 30, 1950, to James and Carita Trotter. When he was a child, his family moved to the Hyde Park section of Chicago. Some of his earliest recollections involve political activism. His parents were very socially conscious, involved in community organizations and civil rights marches during the 1960s. It is those early years that make him so attuned to the innercity problems of Chicago today. He felt that so many of the old neighborhoods that made Chicago such a viable city have fallen apart and need rebuilding.

Trotter left his home neighborhood for the University of Arizona, but he left school for a time and later transferred to Chicago State University. He became president of the Black Student Union and was involved in a number of active campus organizations, including the Black Panthers. Founded in California in 1966 by Huey New. on and Bobby Seale, the Panthers were originally formed to protect ghetto residents from police brutality. As they grew more militant, conflicts developed between them and the police. Following a shootout in the early 1970s, Newton was sent to jail for killing a patrolman. Soon after, the group lost favor with many African Americans because of its militancy. Today, the Panthers concentrate on more conventional politics and on serving black neighborhoods.

In 1976 Trotter graduated from CSU with a B.A. in history. Twenty years later, he would earn a masters degree in health policy of jurisprudence from Loyola University Law School in Chicago. Trotter is married to

At a Glance

Born Donne E. Trotter, January 30, 1950, Cairo, IL; son of James and Carita Trotter; married Rose Zuniga, four children. Education: Chicago State University, B. A. History, 1976; Loyola University Law School, masters, Health Policy of Jurisprudence, 1996. Politics: Democrat.

Career: Cook County Hospital senior administrator, 1981; elected to Illinois House of Representatives, 1986; elected to Illinois State Senate, 1992-.

Selected Memberships: Young Chicagoans for Met-calfe, 1974; chairman Appropriations committee; Illinois Legislative Black Caucus.

Addresses: Office 8704 S. Constance Ste.324, Chicago 60617; Springfield Capitol Building, Rm. 105-E, Springfield, IL 62706.

Rose Zuniga, and the couple have four children. In an interview with Contemporary Black Biography, Trotter said of his career choice, I originally had the intention of teaching. I wanted to make a difference in the world. Although my mother was a teacher and I admire the profession, I decided that I could better serve in government and the political arena than in education. Its important to make a difference. If you give people help, you get a warm, great feeling. I enjoy what I do.

After graduation, Trotter entered the health care field and later became senior administrator of Cook County Hospital, Chicago. He also spent two years as deputy director of the Cook County Board of Public Health. However, during this time he was actively involved in politics as well. Even before graduating from college, he worked on election campaigns. In 1974, he became part of the Young Chicagoans for Metcalfe. Democrat Ralph Metcalfe, Jr., a personal friend and neighbor of the Trotter family, was running for Congress. The campaign gave Trotter a chance to use his organizing skills. The fact that he knew the streets of Chicago so well led to a job as administrative assistant and campaign manager for Lewis A.H. Caldwell, who represented the South Shore area. This gave Trotter an opportunity to travel back and forth from Chicago to Springfield, the state capital.

Trotter was also very active in the mayoral race of Harold Washington. Always interested in making his city a better place to live, Trotter was the co-founder of the Community Action Council whose major concern was to address social ills. Toward that end, one of the CACs first activities was a voter registration drive. A total of 150, 000 new voters were registered for the mayoral race in 1983.

Entered the State Legislature

With his interest growing in the political scene, Trotter, a Democrat, decided to run for Illinois state representative in 1986. A seat had become vacant when former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun declared her intention to run for lieutenant governor of the state. However, after Trotter filed his petition, Moseley-Braun changed her mind. Trotter quickly withdrew his name. I stepped out of the race so she could keep her seat, he was quoted as saying in the Commercial Appeal.

Trotters chance to break into politics came again in 1988 when Moseley-Braun vacated her seat to run for Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Thats when I threw my hat in the ring, he declared in the Commercial Appeal.He was elected a state representative in the 25th district. It included his home neighborhood of Hyde Park.

Trotters two main interests as a state representative were health care and assault weapons. Working with then-Lieutenant Governor George Ryan, he was able to lead the initiative to pass a ban on assault weapons in 1989. As vice chairman of the Health Care Committee, he led the introduction of new health programs that resulted in a positive change for the health care of Illinois citizens.

In 1992 Trotter ran for and won a seat in the Illinois state senate, where he currently serves. He is chairman of Appropriations, which means that he has influence over spending on reforms, including health care, education, and the criminal justice system. Trotter is also anxious for minorities in his state to share in the economic wealth. He told CBB, I helped to fund the Dusable Museum, named for the first black settler in Chicago. It is the premier African American museum in the United States. Trotter was also able to fund money to his alma mater, CSU, which has a high minority population.

In the November elections of 2000, Trotter made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. He and State Senator Barack Obama, lost their challenge to unseat U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther leader. Trotter felt that Rush was not providing enough leadership to the South Side district.

Legislature Agenda

Donne Trotter has four major interests in the state senate: health care, education and criminal justice reforms, and economic development. Besides Appropriations, he served on committees for local government, childrens and aging concerns, and the environment. In addition to his work with several other committees, he is chairman of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and co-chair of the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules and of the Health Containment Task Force.

During Trotters years in the state legislature, KidCare has given health benefits to 53, 000 children previously without coverage, the Hospital Assessment Plan has brought in more than $500 million to the state, and some $20 million have been appropriated for programs to reduce teenage pregnancy and juvenile crime. In addition, some $2.7 billion have gone to community and economic development. He felt a strong link between teaching and government. Trotter told CBB,Teaching government to younger people, passing down what you do in any helping profession makes for a continuous line to the next generation and others to come.



Commercial Appeal, March 22, 2000.


Additional information was obtained from a resume provided by Trotters district office, on-line at, and through a personal telephone interview with Contemporary Black Biography.

Corinne J. Naden and Rose Blue