Abner Mikva grew up on the south side of Chicago, and began his political career following a one-year clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court. He became interested in politics in the late 1940s, identifying himself as an independent Democrat - a strong supporter of Adlai Stevenson but not part of the powerful Chicago Democratic machine. Mikva served in the Illinois legislature from 1956 to 1966 representing the Hyde Park neighborhood of the city, and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to January 1973. He was maneuvered out of office due to redistricting, then represented the Evanston area in Congress from 1975 to 1979, when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (not a subject of this interview). In 1994 he began a one-year hitch as President Bill Clinton's legal advisor. He then returned to Chicago, taught law, and became one of Barack Obama's mentors and early supporters in the late 1990s.
Speech and Q&A with Mark DePue at the Presidential Library, July 2015