Motorists flock to Chicago area gas stations for free fuel


CHICAGO — Long lines of cars stretched for blocks near Chicago-area gas stations on Thursday, signaling that a businessman who has made repeated runs for local and national office was footing the bill for motorists to top off their tanks for a second time.

Willie Wilson was giving gas away to motorists who showed up at four dozen gas stations. Some drivers waited for more more than an hour to collect their $50 worth of gasoline.

Motorists could keep filling up for free until Wilson’s tab reached $1 million.

Gas prices have been rising nationwide. On Thursday, the cost of gas inched close to $5 per gallon in the Chicago metro area, up from a little more than $3 a year ago, according to AAA.

Chicago police said the giveaway slowed traffic Thursday morning but that the department has not received any reports of fights, automobile collisions or other major problems related to the giveaway.

Wilson, 73, conducted another gas giveaway on March 17, offering $200,000 of gas from 10 Chicago gas stations. The giveaway led to gridlock, bad tempers and resident concerns about the environmental cost of idling engines in their neighborhoods.

Wilson is a self-made millionaire who has run for mayor of Chicago, the U.S. Senate and even president of the United States. He has opened his wallet before to help people out, including to post bail for people at Cook County Jail and to donate money to homeowners to help them pay their property tax bills.

The city faces another mayoral election in 2023.

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