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Daniel Walker

Dan Walker (right) shaking hands at the 1973 Bud Billiken Parade

In office
January 8, 1973 – January 10, 1977
Lieutenant Neil Hartigan
Preceded by Richard B. Ogilvie
Succeeded by James R. Thompson

Born August 6, 1922 (1922-08-06) (age 87)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Roberta Dowse
Roberta Nelson
Lillian, 3rd wife
Residence Escondido, California
Profession Lawyer / Paralegal, Politician
Religion Methodist[1]

Daniel Walker (born August 6, 1922) was the 36th Governor of the U.S. state of Illinois from 1973 to 1977. His reputation was later tarnished by his criminal conviction for savings and loan fraud.[2]

He was born in Washington, D.C. and raised near San Diego, California. He was the second Governor of Illinois to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. He served as a naval officer in World War II and the Korean War.[3] A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law, Walker later became an executive for Montgomery Ward while pursuing anti-machine Democratic politics in Chicago.

He served as a clerk for Chief Justice of the United States Fred M. Vinson and was an aide to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and campaign chairman for the 1970 Senate campaign of Stevenson's son Adlai Stevenson III. He rose to prominence as staff director of the Kerner Commission (headed by former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner), which issued a report on police conduct at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The report concluded that in effect a "police riot" occurred.


Illinois Governor

Walker announced his candidacy for Governor of Illinois in 1972, after attracting wide attention by walking 1,197 miles (1,926 km) across Illinois in 1971,[2] and narrowly won the Democratic primary by upsetting then-Lt. Governor Paul Simon. In November, he defeated incumbent Republican Richard B. Ogilvie by a 51% to 49% margin and at one point in the early 1970s had presidential aspirations.

The enmity between Walker and Mayor Richard J. Daley's political organization was deep. In 1974, Walker supported legislative candidates against Daley allies. A year later, members of Walker's administration demanded Daley resign as chairman of the Cook County Democratic organization. Walker's deputy governor, Victor deGrazia later said: "... I knew from the beginning that every time Daley looked at Walker, he saw the Church of England and the British suppression of the Irish, and when Dan would look at Daley, he would see the quintessential politician who was only interested in political gain."[4]

"We never established anything even approaching a personal rapport. To some degree, this was an obvious and natural result of my independent political activity. But it went deeper ---- much deeper," said Walker.

Walker did not repeal the income tax that Ogilvie had enacted and, wedged between Republicans and machine Democrats, had little success with the Illinois legislature during his tenure.

In 1976, Walker was defeated in the Democratic primary, losing to Secretary of State Michael Howlett, the candidate supported by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, by a 54% to 46% margin. In the general election, Howlett was overwhelmingly defeated by James R. Thompson.

Post political career and criminal conviction

In the 1980s, Walker entered the private sector with Butler-Walker, Inc, a chain of self-named quick oil change franchises later bought by Jiffy Lube[5] and a pair of troubled Savings and Loans. In 1987, he was convicted of improprieties related to the First American Savings & Loan Association of Oak Brook. Media at the time reported he received over a million dollars in fraudulent loans for his business and repairs on his yacht, the Governor's Lady.[6] At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ann Williams stated, "It's clear to this court that a pattern was established and that you, Mr. Walker, thought this bank was your own personal piggy bank to bail you out whenever you got into trouble."[6] The First American Savings & Loan Association of Oak Brook was declared insolvent with a deficit of $23 million[7] and was later bailed out by the United States federal government. He was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, and served 18 months at a Duluth, Minnesota correctional facility. In January 2001 he requested a pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton, but his request was not granted.[8]

Walker became the second of three Governors of Illinois in the 20th Century to be convicted on federal criminal charges. The other two were Otto Kerner, Jr. and George Ryan.


Daniel Walker was married in 1947 to Roberta Dowse, a Catholic school teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had seven children, three boys Daniel Jr., Charlie and William and four girls, Kathleen, Julie, Robbie and Margaret. They were divorced in 1977. Roberta Dowse-Walker died in December 2006 from colon cancer.[9] He later married Roberta Nelson, who was 14 years his junior, and was divorced in 1989 while he was in prison. In 2007 he resided in Escondido, California with his third wife, Lillian.[10]


In 2007, Southern Illinois University Press released The Maverick and the Machine: Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story,[11] in which Walker commented on his business and law troubles, saying "I knew this was against regulations, but, like most businessmen, I saw a huge difference between a law and a regulation." In the book he speaks of his experiences in jail as well as in the political sphere.[12] He also authored The First Hundred Years A.D. 1-100: Failures and Successes of Christianity's Beginning[13] and Thirst for Independence: The San Diego Water Story.[14] In 2003 he had several other writing projects in the works, including a cookbook.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Oral History Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Dan Walker Oral History.
  2. ^ a b "Quinn Would Face $2 Billion Budget Gap as Blagojevich Successor". Bloomberg News. 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-12-15.  
  3. ^ 1973-1974 Illinois Blue Book. Biography of Illinois Governor Daniel Walker. Page 16.
  4. ^ Oral History Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Victor deGrazia Oral History
  5. ^ Chicago Sun-Times. 5 last Walker lube centers to Jiffy Lube. August 26, 1986.
  6. ^ a b The Associated Press. William C. Hidlay. Former Governor Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison. November 20, 1987.
  7. ^ Chicago Sun-Times. S&L failure cost: $23 million. July 3, 1988.
  8. ^ Chicago Sun-Times. Mark Brown. If Rosty gets pardoned, why not Walker? January 17, 2001.
  9. ^ Lori Rackl, The Chicago Sun-Times. Obituary, ROBERTA DOWSE WALKER 1924-2006.
  10. ^ North County Times. The Maverick – Former Illinois governor Dan Walker writes of fall from high office to federal prison. May 26, 2007.
  11. ^ ISBN 0809327562
  12. ^ Daniel Walker. The Maverick and the Machine: Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story. ISBN 0809327562.
  13. ^ (Authors Choice Press September 2001. ISBN 0595196349)
  14. ^ (Sunbelt Publications, 2004. ISBN 0932653626)
  15. ^ The San Diego Union-Tribune. PROJECTS KEEP FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR FROM S.D. MOVING ALONG. March 6, 2003.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard B. Ogilvie
Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
James R. Thompson


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