Alderman jim kearns

Chicago flag goes home to Mayo

Dennis Kearns with the Chicago flag.

By Irish Echo Staff

The hosts of “The Skinny & Houli Irish Radio Hour” fly out to Ireland today with the grandson of the late Chicago City Council Alderman James Ambrose Kearns to present the City of Chicago flag to dignitaries in Westport, Co. Mayo.

Kearns, also known as “Weeping Jim” Kearns because of his fondness for Irish wakes, is recognized as the “father of the Chicago flag.”

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“The Skinny & Houli Irish Radio Hour” has broadcast Saturday afternoons in Chicagoland on WCEV 1450AM for the last eight years and podcasts on I-Tunes and

James A. Kearns emigrated from Inishscuttle, Kilmeena, Westport, to America in 1883 and became a lawyer in Chicago where he served as an Alderman, Clerk of the Municipal Court and City Treasurer (second highest-ranking official in Chicago at the time).

It wasn’t until 1915, Ald. James A. Kearns introduced a resolution calling for an official design that the city of Chicago’s lack of a flag became an issue. The City Council agreed with Kearns, who feared Chicago was lagging other major cities, and established the Chicago Municipal Flag Commission.

Alderman Kearns’s grandson, Dennis A. Kearns, a longtime consultant and lobbyist for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in Chicago and, for the last 20 years, in Austin, Texas, is a native of the south side of Chicago. Kearns, an Irish citizen and a devotee of all things Hibernian, makes an annual pilgrimage to Eire with the very popular Irish radio program, “The Skinny & Houli Irish Radio Hour.”

Alderman Jim Kearns

This year’s trip will take more than 40 people back to Mayo with Skinny and Houli and Irish fiddler Katie Grennan as they visit Galway, the Aran Islands, Achill Island, Our Lady of Knock Shrine, Kilronan Castle and Fitzpatrick Castle. The group is also scheduled for a two-night stay in Westport.

On Tuesday, Kearns, radio co-hosts Skinny Sheahan and Mike Houlihan and Irish-American Heritage Center President Geno Cooney will present dignitaries in Westport with a Chicago flag to celebrate the 100th year of the flag and honor the memory of Westport’s native son, Weeping Jim Kearns.

“We're going to try and shoot a little documentary about this,” Houlihan told the Echo.