Richard Daley

From New World Encyclopedia

Richard Joseph Daley
Richard Daley

48th Mayor of Chicago
In office
1955 – 1976
Preceded by Martin H. Kennelly
Succeeded by Michael A. Bilandic

Born May 15 1902(1902-05-15)
Flag of United States Chicago, Illinois
Died December 20 1976 (aged 74)
Flag of United States Chicago, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Spouse Eleanor "Sis" Daley
Children Richard M. Daley, John P. Daley, Michael Daley, Patricia Martino, Mary Carol Vanecko, William M. Daley, Eleanor Daley
Residence Chicago, Illinois
Religion Roman Catholic

Richard Joseph Daley (May 15, 1902 – December 20, 1976) served for 21 years as the undisputed Democratic boss of Chicago and is considered by historians to be the "last of the big city bosses." He played a major role in the history of the Democratic Party, especially with his support of John F. Kennedy in the United States presidential election, 1960, and of Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 presidential election.

Daley had two bases of power, serving as Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee from 1953, and as mayor of Chicago from 1955. He used both positions until his death, in 1976, to dominate party and civic affairs. Daley's well-organized Democratic political machine was often accused and though many of Daley's subordinates were jailed, Daley was never personally accused of political corruption. He is remembered for doing much to avoid the declines that some other "rust belt" cities like Cleveland and Detroit experienced during the same period. He had a strong base of support in Chicago's Irish Catholic community, and he was treated by national politicians such as Lyndon B. Johnson as a preeminent Irish American, with special connections to the Kennedy family.

Early life

Daley was born on Chicago's South Side near the stockyards in 1902, Daley was the only child of blue-collar, immigrant Irish Catholic parents. Daley attended Catholic elementary and high schools where he learned clerical skills and took night classes at DePaul University College of Law to earn a Juris Doctor in 1933. Daley, however, never practiced law and instead spent his career in politics, starting as a budget specialist.

Political career

Early career

Although Daley was a lifelong Democrat, he was first elected to the Illinois legislature as a Republican. This was a matter of political opportunism and the peculiar setup for legislative elections in Illinois at the time, which allowed Daley to take the place on the ballot of the recently deceased Republican candidate David Shanahan. After his election, Daley immediately moved to the Democratic side of the aisle. Daley suffered his only political defeat in 1946, when he lost a bid to become Cook County sheriff.

First elected mayor in 1955, Daley was re-elected to that office six times and had been mayor for 21 years at the time of his death. During his administration, Daley ruled the city with an iron hand and dominated the political arena of the city and, to a lesser extent, that of the entire state.

Daley married Eleanor "Sis" Guilfoyle on June 17, 1936, and they lived in a modest brick bungalow at 3536 South Lowe Avenue in the heavily Irish-American Bridgeport neighborhood, just blocks from his birthplace. They had three daughters and four sons, in that order. Their eldest son, Richard M. Daley, was elected mayor of Chicago in 1989, and has served in that position ever since. The youngest son, William M. Daley, served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1997-2000. Another son, John P. Daley, is a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The other siblings have stayed out of public life. Michael Daley is a partner in the law firm Daley & George, and Patricia (Daley) Martino and Mary Carol (Daley) Vanecko are teachers, as was Eleanor, who died in 1998.

Major construction during his terms in office resulted in O'Hare International Airport, the Sears Tower, McCormick Place, the University of Illinois at Chicago campus, numerous expressways and subway construction projects, and other major Chicago landmarks. O'Hare was a particular point of pride for Daley, with he and his staff regularly devising occasions to celebrate it.

In 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted the Daley machine when King attempted to take the Civil Rights Movement north and encourage racial integration of Chicago's neighborhoods, such as Marquette Park. King's efforts in Chicago were largely unsuccessful, and his failure in Chicago was a serious setback for the Civil Rights Movement.

1968 and later career

The year 1968 was a momentous year for Daley. In April, Daley was castigated for his sharp rhetoric in the aftermath of rioting that took place after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Displeased with what he saw as an overly cautious police response to the rioting, Daley chastised police superintendent James B. Conlisk and subsequently related that conversation at a City Hall press conference as follows: "I said to him very emphatically and very definitely that an order be issued by him immediately to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand, because they're potential murderers, and to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting."

This statement generated significant controversy. While Daley's supporters deluged his office with grateful letters and telegrams (nearly 4,500 according to Time Magazine), others were appalled. Rev. Jesse Jackson, for example, called it "a fascist's response." The Mayor later backed away from his words in an address to the City Council, saying, "It is the established policy of the police department—fully supported by this administration—that only the minimum force necessary be used by policemen in carrying out their duties." Later that month, Daley asserted "There wasn't any shoot-to-kill order. That was a fabrication."

In August, the 1968 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago. Intended to showcase Daley's achievements to national Democrats and the news media, the proceedings during the convention instead garnered notoriety for the mayor and city.

With the nation divided by the Vietnam War and with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year serving as backdrop, the city became a battleground for anti-war protests who vowed to shut down the convention. In some cases, confrontations between protesters and police turned violent, with images of this violence broadcast on national television. Later, radical activists Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and three other members of the "Chicago Seven" were convicted of crossing state lines with the intent of inciting a riot as a result of these confrontations, though the convictions were overturned on appeal.

At the convention itself, Democratic Senator Abraham A. Ribicoff, from Connecticut, went off-script during his speech nominating George McGovern, saying, "If George McGovern were president, we wouldn’t have these Gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago." Ribicoff also tried to introduce a motion to shut down the convention and move it to another city. Many of convention's attendees applauded Ribicoff's remarks but an indignant Mayor Daley tried to shout down the speaker. Daley is said to have uttered antisemitic slurs against Ribicoff,[1] a charge denied by Daley and refuted by Mike Royko's reporting.[2] A federal commission, led by local attorney and party activist Daniel Walker, later investigated the events surrounding the convention and described them as a "police riot." Daley's supporters challenged Walker's credibility because of his well-known opposition to Daley and Chicago's machine politics.

In 1972, Democratic nominee George McGovern removed Daley from the Democratic National Convention (replacing his delegation with one led by Jesse Jackson). McGovern later made amends by putting Daley loyalist (and Kennedy family in-law) Sargent Shriver on his ticket.

On December 20, 1976, Daley suffered a massive heart attack while visiting his doctor's office and died at the 74 years old. He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth Township, southwest of Chicago.

Speaking style

Daley was known for his tangled tongue. He often said he was "exhilarating" a program, rather than "accelerating" it, and called a bicycle built for two a "tantrum bicycle." One of Daley's most memorable malapropisms was uttered in 1968, while defending what the news media reported as police misconduct during that year's violent and confrontational Democratic Convention. "Gentlemen, get the thing straight once and for all—the policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder." Another notable Daley malapropism was his statement that "We shall reach greater and greater platitudes of achievement."

Earl Bush, the mayor's press aide, once chastised reporters, saying "You should have printed what he meant, not what he said."

Democratic machine politics

Known for shrewd party politics, Daley was the prototypical "machine" politician, and his Chicago Democratic Machine, based on control of thousands of patronage positions, was instrumental in bringing a narrow 8,000 vote victory in Illinois for John F. Kennedy in 1960, following a three week delay and multiple re-counts of votes cast by paper ballot in districts primarily on the south side of Chicago.[3]

Daley was usually open with the news media, meeting with them for frequent news conferences, and taking all questions—if not answering all of them. According to columnist and biographer Mike Royko, Daley got along better with editors and publishers than with reporters.

Daley had limited opposition among the 50 aldermen of the Chicago City Council. For the most part, the aldermen supported Daley and the official party position consistently, except for a small number of Republicans from the German wards on the northwest side of the city and a small number of independents (a group that grew during Daley's mayoralty to represent groups that felt disfranchised by Daley's policies).

Daley's chief means of attaining electoral success was his reliance on the local precinct captain, who marshaled and delivered votes on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. Many of these precinct captains held patronage jobs with the city, mostly minor posts at low pay. Each ward had a ward leader in charge of the precinct captains, some of whom were corrupt. The notorious First Ward (encompassing downtown, which had many businesses but few residents) was tied to the local mafia or crime syndicate, but Daley's own ward was clean and his personal honesty was never questioned successfully.


Daley was known by many Chicagoans as "Da Mare" ("The Mayor"), "Hizzoner" ("His Honor"), and "The Man on Five" (his office was on the fifth floor of City Hall). Since Daley's death and the subsequent election of son Richard as mayor in 1989, the first Mayor Daley has become known as "Boss Daley," "Old Man Daley," or "Daley Senior" to residents of Chicago.

At his death in 1976, much of the general public's perception of Daley was the image painted by Mike Royko in his 1971 biography, Boss—corrupt, racist, cruel, mean, and brutal. In light of the later events, such as New York City's fiscal crisis, Daley's reputation has been rehabilitated, as shown by a poll of 160 historians, political scientists, and urban experts. They ranked Daley as the sixth best mayor in American history.[4] Daley's ways may not have been democratic, but his defenders have argued that he got positive things done for Chicago which a non-boss would have been unable to do. While detractors point out that he did nothing to integrate what had then become known as the most segregated city in the nation, others argue that he was acting on behalf of his constituency, who did not want an integrated Chicago.

On the 50th anniversary of Daley's first 1955 swearing-in, several dozen Daley biographers and associates met at the Chicago Historical Society. Historian Michael Beschloss called Daley "the preeminent mayor of the twentieth century." Chicago journalist Elizabeth Taylor said, "Because of Mayor Daley, Chicago did not become a Detroit or a Cleveland." Many feel that by revitalizing the downtown area and firmly fixing the middle-class in place in the city limits, Daley probably did save Chicago from declining to the extent of the average Rust Belt city. Robert Remini pointed out that while other cities were in fiscal crisis in the 1960s and 1970s, "Chicago always had a double-A bond rating."


A week after his death, one of the City Colleges of Chicago was renamed as the Richard J. Daley College in his honor.

The Richard J. Daley Center is a 32-floor office building completed in 1965, and renamed for the mayor after his death.

The Richard J. Daley Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago[5] is named after him.


  1. Google Books, American Government and Politics: A Concise Introduction. Retrieved December 10, 2007.
  2. Royko, p. 189.
  3. Kalina pp.117-129
  4. Holli.
  5. University of Chicago, Richard J. Daley Library. Retrieved December 20, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Biles, Roger. Richard J. Daley Politics, Race, and the Governing of Chicago. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1995. ISBN 9780875805672
  • Cohen, Adam and Elizabeth Taylor. American Pharaoh Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000. ISBN 9780316834032
  • Green, Paul Michael and Melvin G. Holli. The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. ISBN 9780809313365
  • Holli, Melvin G. The American Mayor: The Best & the Worst Big-City Leaders. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. ISBN 9780271018775
  • Kalina, Edmund F., Courthouse over White House, Chicago and the Presidential Election of 1960. Orlando: University of Central Florida Press, 1988. ISBN 9780813008646
  • Kennedy, Eugene C. Himself! The Life and Times of Mayor Richard J. Daley. New York: Viking Press, 1978. ISBN 9780670372584
  • O'Connor, Len. Clout: Mayor Daley and His City. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1984. ISBN 9780809254248
  • Peterson, Paul E. School Politics, Chicago Style. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976. ISBN 9780226662886
  • Royko, Mike. Boss Richard J. Daley of Chicago. New York: Dutton, 1971. ISBN 9780525070009
  • Simpson, Dick W. Rogues, Rebels, and Rubber Stamps: The Politics of the Chicago City Council from 1863 to the Present. Boulder, Colo: Westview Press, 2001. ISBN 9780813397634

External links

All links retrieved December 8, 2022.

Preceded by:
Martin H. Kennelly
Mayor of Chicago
Succeeded by:
Michael A. Bilandic


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