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Influential Chicago journalist, Illinois Supreme Court press secretary passes away

Joseph R. TyborJoseph Tybor, the longtime Chicago journalist and press secretary for the Illinois Supreme Court, died Saturday at his home in Countryside. He was 68.

Tybor’s 30-year journalism career included comprehensive coverage of a broad array of subjects, including the Vietnam War, Notre Dame football and his must-read “On the Law” column that ran weekly in the Chicago Tribune.

For the past decade and a half he was a diligent advocate for the Illinois Supreme Court and spearheaded key changes to the Open Meetings Act, which allowed cameras into Illinois courtrooms for the first time.

"My colleagues and I are deeply saddened by Joe’s passing. He was truly dedicated to his role as the voice of the Illinois Supreme Court, and we watched in awe as he continued to carry out his duties even as he fought his illness," Chief Justice Rita B. Garman said. "He was an example to us all of courage and strength. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, in which he took such great pride. We will miss his professionalism, his optimism, and his cheerful demeanor."

“His relationships with reporters and his love and passion for the law made him such an absolute great fit at the Supreme Court,” Tybor’s son, Adam Tybor, said. “He was amazing at his job - he fought for his beliefs."

Tybor, who was born in Chicago and grew up on the near South Side, got his start at the Chicago bureau of The Associated Press in the late 1960s. He was then drafted into the U.S. Army and served from 1969-71. He continued reporting in the military and had an influential story about the transport of deadly nerve gas republished by the AP.

After his discharge, Tybor returned to the AP and began taking night classes to earn his law degree. He earned his Juris Doctor from DePaul in 1979, and two years later he was hired by former Chicago Tribune city editor Dick Ciccone to cover legal affairs.

“At the AP you cover a variety of things,” said Ciccone, who later served as the Tribune’s managing editor from 1982-95. “He could so easily move from a crime story to a weather story to a sports story. He was a very fast writer and very informed on a whole wide world of subjects.”

In 1986, the Tribune nominated Tybor for a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Chicago’s criminal justice system, Adam Tybor said.

His weekly “On the Law” column was a must-read for attorneys, judges, litigants and the general public.

After several years on the legal affairs beat he transitioned to coverage of Notre Dame sports, where he flourished as the foremost authority of all things Fighting Irish. Soon after taking over the beat he started his own side publication, Irish Eyes, one of the earliest online destinations for sports information.

Irish Eyes was a subscriber-based, bulletin board-style site where Tybor published inside information about Notre Dame.

“We just found a letter from Lou Holtz,” Adam Tybor said, “saying ‘Joe Tybor would be the only person I would consider letting write a book about me.’ ”

After a decade on the Notre Dame beat and as the newspaper industry began to change, Tybor transitioned to a communications role with the Illinois Supreme Court.

He served as the Court’s press secretary until his death.

“Everyone who ever dealt with him regarded him as tough but fair,” Ciccone said.

Tybor was also a nature lover, an avid camper, canoer and paddler. He earned his instructor certification from the American Canoe Association at age 65.

Tybor is survived by his wife, Sandra; daughter, Sarah (Kevin) Clark; son, Adam Tybor (Kelly Hartigan); siblings Julia Moore, Donna Siedschlag and David Tybor; grandchildren, Harrison Joseph Clark, Charles Jacob Tybor and Erin Catherine Tybor; and several nieces and nephews

Visitation will be held from 3-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Hallowell & James Funeral Home, 1025 W. 55th St., Countryside. Mass will be held at St. Cletus Church, 600 W. 55th St., LaGrange, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Block Integrative Cancer Center, Skokie, Ill., or the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Morgan Yingst

Member Comments (2)

A remarkable man. My condolences to family and friends.

He was an amazing asset to ISBA and to all of the judges in the State of Illinois. Plus a pleasure to know. My condolences to his family.