Former Death Row Inmate Sought to Keep the Peace

Derrick House, a former gang leader in the 1970s and 1980s, returned to Chicago after 20 years in prison and became a committed violence interrupter in West Garfield Park and Austin with The Institute for Nonviolence. He passed away of natural causes June 20, at 52, and he is remembered for saving lives and becoming a mentor to young people in his community.

In 2017, the Tribune followed House as he worked the Austin neighborhood, his phone constantly ringing as gang shootings popped around him. In a video, House voices frustration over his work being undermined by endless shootings.

“It’s hard, because you doing so much right and you see so much wrong. You like, ‘Damn, when we gonna catch a break here?'” House said at the time.

He became a big brother to troubled teens and a father figure to scores of children, starting an annual Father’s Day picnic in Garfield Park and gathering school supplies for children. He would drive residents to jobs in the suburbs until they could get their own transportation, and he helped young men with criminal cases understand the system and complete paperwork.

“He wore a lot of hats,” said Seaton, who knew House since the 1980s and called him the “Mayor of Chicago Avenue” because of the influence he wielded.


This is a post related to the Street Outreach, Support Services and Jobs strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities.