top of page


Rest in Power, Jim Dougherty

Last month, former IFT President James Dougherty passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 81. IFT President Dan Montgomery sent the following message to members in memoriam.


Dear IFT Member,

I have some very sad news to share with you and the entire IFT family. Last month, former IFT President James (Jim) Dougherty passed away peacefully in his sleep at age 81.

Jim proudly taught biology at Niles East and North High Schools in Skokie from 1967-2000, where he served for many years as president of both the Niles Township Federation of Teachers (NTFT) and the North Suburban Teachers Union, Local 1274, my home council and local. Jim was also an IFT Vice President.

In 1976, as a young union president, Jim led NTFT members through an historic, hard-fought and successful strike. The school district fired all 267 striking teachers, one by one, as school board members called out each member’s name during an all-night school board meeting, what one Chicago paper called "a midnight massacre." Thanks to Jim’s steady leadership and relentless drive for justice, every member got their jobs back and returned to work as the school board relented in its effort to kill the union. That strike and others helped pave the way for the passage of the Illinois public bargaining act that secured the rights to collective bargaining and striking that we all enjoy today. (Watch this documentary about that 1976 strike.)

Upon his retirement from teaching, Jim went on to be elected as IFT President in 2000, where he served for nearly a decade during a transformative time for our statewide union. He was also an AFT Vice President and a Vice President of the Illinois AFL-CIO. Under Jim's leadership the IFT opened its new headquarters in Westmont, grew by thousands of members, and successfully fought off the call for a constitutional convention. Unionism ran in Jim’s veins, and he committed his life to achieving fairness and respect for teachers and all working people. Even in retirement, Jim was a trusted counselor to me and to leaders in our local and his beloved Niles Township schools.

Jim was a deeply devoted husband and father of six. I know you join me in wishing his wife, Mary, and the entire Dougherty family, peace at this difficult time. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

Everyone in Illinois public education owes Jim our gratitude for his commitment to our unions and professions. He was truly an outstanding educator and a legendary leader. On a personal note, I can tell you that Jim was also an incredible mentor to me. Early in my teaching and union career, he recognized leadership skills in me that I didn’t see myself. Jim encouraged me and supported me to become the union leader I am today.

Thank you, Jim. May you Rest in Power.


Dan Montgomery, IFT President 


If you would like to honor Jim, he would have appreciated a donation to ROSA (Retirees Organization Scholarship Account) of the Niles Township Retirees Association (NTRA). They give annual scholarships to Niles Township High School students who are going on to higher education in teaching. Please make checks payable to NTRA (with "In honor of Jim" in the memo) and send them to IFT, 500 Oakmont Ln., Westmont IL 60559. Your donation is tax-deductible. Thank you.

417 views0 comments


bottom of page