Larry Rogers Sr. devoted his life to the Black community, his family and the passion of building a more equitable justice system in this United States, said his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Rogers was one of his role models, he said.
Rogers, 75, died Jan. 19 after a battle with cancer, his family said.
Durbin called Rogers a hero who blazed a trail for generations of lawyers and helped the Black community defend its most vulnerable members.
“Last week, Chicago lost a legend,” Durbin said in a congressional record statement. “His name was Larry Rogers Sr. And over the past many years, I have been lucky to count him as a friend, as well as a role model.”
Rogers’ path began when he was 14 and his father died, making Rogers’ mother the sole breadwinner for him and six of his siblings, Durbin said.
He grew up on the Far South Side in the Roseland community, while his mother worked two jobs to support her children and pay their Catholic school education. His mother’s work ethic and belief in a good education inspired Rogers to become a leader in his field and community.
Rogers went on to excel in academics and was accepted into law school after graduating college, but was forced to put his legal career on hold due to a health issue. Like his mother, he couldn’t slow down because he had a family to feed. So once leaving law school, he started working three jobs to pay the bills.
One of those jobs was at a gas station across the street from Comiskey Park, the White Sox’s ballpark, where Guaranteed Rate Field is today. During this job, Rogers began a friendship with a regular customer named Joe Power, a young attorney. Power would encourage Rogers to complete law school and eventually would recruit Rogers to the law firm where he worked, Durbin said.
Their friendship and professional relationship spanned 40 years, and the two lawyers founded a personal law and medical malpractice firm, Power Rogers LLP.
Rogers would emerge as a mastermind in the courtroom. In 1985, he landed the largest personal injury victory in Illinois history in a multimillion-dollar verdict for families who had been wronged by a baby formula company that sold chloride-deficient formula affecting the intellectual development of babies. Years after that victory, he won a $55 million verdict for a woman who’d suffered brain damage during a brain procedure. In four decades, he won major verdicts for victims of medical malpractice, motor vehicle negligence and aviation accidents.
Rogers paid his success forward in mentorship, guidance, and support for African American students and attorneys who had long been excluded from the legal world, Durbin said.
After he served as the president of the Cook County Bar Association and the first African American president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, he was named one of the top 500 trial lawyers in the nation.
Above all, Rogers was a dedicated and loving father and grandfather, Durbin said. His list of accolades influenced his children to pursue their passions with diligence and determination, he added. His son Larry Rogers Jr. is the second-ever African American president of the ITLA. Like his dad, Larry Jr. also became the president of the CCBA and a partner at Power Rogers.
In total, there are three generations of legal professionals in the Rogers family. Besides Larry Jr., there’s his brother Dom, an injury attorney, and his sister Ann Marie, a court reporter. Additionally, Larry Sr.’s stepson Frederic, niece, Carmen, nephew Sean and grandson Trevor are all lawyers.
Rogers was an avid sports fan, holding season tickets for the Chicago Bulls and Bears, Durbin said. Rogers was the captain of his Sea Ray sports boat.
“Rogers would often invite friends and family to join him on vacations to Lake Michigan, Florida, and even the Bahamas — a testament to his generosity and eagerness to spread joy to those he loved,” Durbin said.
Thursday afternoon, his son Larry Jr. spoke of his father’s love for his family.
“He was the epitome of what a man should be in his professional and private life,” Rogers Jr. said. “He loved seeing his children and grandchildren laugh and happy.”
Rogers Jr. and his sister, Anne Marie, spoke of their father’s dedication to his community.
“He was a giant, a humble man, and he was my superman,” his daughter said.
His survivors include a life partner, Pam Anderson, his children and stepchildren, Larry Jr., Dom, Anne Marie and Frederic, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
A public funeral was held Saturday at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson officiating.
In memorial of Larry Rogers Sr., a gift of scholarship may be made online at https://give.depaul.edu/LarryRogers, or by mailing a check payable to DePaul University with “Larry Rogers Endowed Scholarship” in the memo to: DePaul University Office of Advancement, PO Box 6740, Carol Stream, IL 60197-6740.