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Richard Joseph Daley

In office
April 20, 1955 – December 20, 1976
Preceded by Martin H. Kennelly
Succeeded by Michael A. Bilandic

Born May 15, 1902(1902-05-15)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died December 20, 1976 (aged 74)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 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 1960 and of Hubert Humphrey in 1968.

Daley was Chicago's third mayor in a row from the working-class, heavily Irish American Bridgeport neighborhood on Chicago's South Side, and he lived there his entire life.

Daley had two bases of power, serving as a Committeeman and 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 of corruption and though many of Daley's subordinates were jailed, Daley was never personally formally accused of 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.

Richard M. Daley, the current and second longest-serving mayor of Chicago, is his son.


Early life

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, though he practiced law with partner William J. Lynch, spent the majority of his time dedicated to his career in politics.

Political career

Early career

Although Daley was a lifelong Democrat, he was first elected to the Illinois House of Representatives as a Republican in 1936. 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 quickly moved back to the Democratic side of the aisle in 1938, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate.[1] Daley suffered his only political defeat in 1946, when he lost a bid to become Cook County sheriff. In the late 1940s Daley became Democratic Ward Committeeman of the 11th Ward, a post he retained until his death.

First elected mayor in 1955 with a modest victory margin of 125,179 votes, 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 US 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.[2]

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 him 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. Daley called for a "summit conference" and signed an agreement with King and other community leaders to foster open housing. The agreement was without legal standing and ignored[3]. 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 by many 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[4]:

"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. Daley's supporters deluged his office with grateful letters and telegrams (nearly 4,500 according to Time Magazine), and it has been credited for Chicago's being one of the cities least affected by the riots. But 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 King and Robert F. Kennedy earlier that year serving as backdrop, the city became a battleground for anti-war protesters 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, Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff, D-Conn., 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 conventioneers 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[5][6], a charge denied by Daley and refuted by Mike Royko's reporting.[7] 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 machine politics. Despite a decline in popularity following 1968, Daley was historically re-elected for the fifth time in 1971. However, many have argued this was due to a lack of formidable opposition rather than Daley's own popularity.[8]

In 1972, Democratic nominee George McGovern threw Daley out of the Democratic National Convention (replacing his delegation with one led by Jesse Jackson). This event arguably marked a downturn in Daley's power and influence within the Democratic Party but, given his public standing, McGovern later made amends by putting Daley loyalist (and Kennedy 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 age of 74. He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth Township, southwest of Chicago.

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.


In 1939, Illinois State Senator William "Botchy" Connors remarked

"you couldn't give that guy a nickel, that's how honest he is."

However, in January 1973, former Illinois Racing Board Chairman William S. Miller testified that Daley had "induced" him to bribe Illinois Governor Otto Kerner.

This scandal marked the start of two years of controversy where the integrity of the Mayor and his office was strongly questioned.

Speaking style

Daley, who never lost his blue-collar Chicago accent (better known as a southside Chicago accent), was known for often mangling his syntax and other verbal gaffes. Daley made one of his most memorable verbal missteps in 1968, while defending what the news media reported as police misconduct during that year's violent 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."

Democratic Party 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. A PBS documentary entitled "Daley" explained that Mayor Daley, JFK, and LBJ potentially stole the 1960 election by stuffing ballot boxes in Texas and rigging the vote in Chicago. In addition, it reveals, Daley withheld many votes from certain wards when the race seemed close.

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 disenfranchised by Daley's policies).

Daley's chief means of attaining electoral success was his reliance on local precinct captains, 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 supposedly clean and his personal honesty was never questioned successfully, primarily because he controlled all levels of the government and media that could have questioned him.


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, 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. (Holli 1999) 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 pre-eminent mayor of the 20th 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."

According to Chicago folksinger Steve Goodman, "no man could inspire more love, more hate."

Aside from the obvious legacy of having an effect on the city of Chicago for twenty-one years as its mayor, Daley is memorialized specifically in the following:

  • 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 [1]
  • Richard J. Daley Park immediately east of Millennium Park and north of Grant Park
  • There is a critically acclaimed play about Daley, "Hizzoner:Daley the First" now playing at the Beverly Arts Center. [2]
  • The Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Chicago" (written by Graham Nash) was about the 1968 Democratic convention. In their Four Way Street live album, Nash ironically dedicates the song to "Mayor Daley."
  • In a scene set at the Chez Paul restaurant in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers, the Maître d' (Alan Rubin) is seen talking on the phone: "No, sir, Mayor Daley no longer dines here, sir. He's dead, sir." Later in the film, when the brothers are driving rapidly through Chicago, Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) comments that they're entering Daley Plaza. "That's where they got that Picasso!" Jake enthuses. The classic "use of excessive force in the apprehension of the Blues Brothers has been approved" line delivered by a police dispatcher is an obvious homage to Daley's 1968 order during the riots following Martin Luther King's assassination.


  • Cohen, Adam; and Elizabeth Taylor (2000). American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-83403-3.   Detailed scholarly biography.
  • Goodman, Barak (director). (1995). Daley: The Last Boss. [documentary].   Originally shown on the PBS program American Experience.
  • Kennedy, Eugene (1978). Himself!: The Life and Times of Mayor Richard J. Daley. New York: Viking Press. ISBN 0-670-37258-7.  
  • O'Connor, Len (1975). Clout: Mayor Daley and His City. Chicago: H. Regnery. ISBN 0-8092-8291-7.  
  • Royko, Mike (1971). Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0-525-07000-1.  

Academic studies

  • Biles, Roger (1995). Richard J. Daley: Politics, Race, and the Government of Chicago. DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-87580-199-4.  
  • Green, Paul M. (1995). "Mayor Richard J. Daley and the politics of good government". in in Paul M. Green and Melvin G. Holli (eds.). The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition (rev. ed. ed.). Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. pp. 144–159. ISBN 0-8093-1963-2.  
  • Holli, Melvin G. (1999). The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big-city Leaders. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01876-3.  [9]
  • Peterson, Paul E. (1976). School Politics, Chicago Style. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-66288-8.  
  • Rakove, Milton L. (1975). Don't Make No Waves—Don't Back No Losers: An Insider's Analysis of the Daley Machine. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-11725-9.  
  • Simpson, Dick (2001). Rogues, Rebels, and Rubber Stamps: The Politics of the Chicago City Council from 1863 to the Present. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-9763-4.  


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Royko, Mike Boss, Penguin Books (1971) p. 158.
  4. ^ Perlstein, Rick, Nixonland Simon & Schuster (2008)
  5. ^ Marc, Schogol. "Views differ on impact of religious bias in race", Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, August 9, 2000. Accessed May 21, 2007. "Chicago Mayor Richard Daley cursed Ribicoff with an anti-Semitic slur at the raucous 1968 Democratic National Convention."
  6. ^ Singh, Robert. "American Government and Politics: A Concise Introduction", Sage Publications (2003), p. 106. "Chicago police assaulted anti-war protesters, while inside turmoil engulfed proceedings and Chicago boss Richard Daley hurled anti-Semitic abuse at Senator Abraham Ribicoff (Democratic, Connecticut)."
  7. ^ Royko, p. 189.
  8. ^ Biles, Roger. Richard J. Daley: Politics, Race, and the Government of Chicago. Northern Illinois University Press (1995). p.183
  9. ^ Charles Kolb, Review of "The American Mayor"
Political offices
Preceded by
Martin H. Kennelly
Mayor of Chicago
April 20, 1955 – December 20, 1976
Succeeded by
Michael A. Bilandic

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I'm not the last of the old bosses. I'm the first of the new leaders.

Richard J. Daley, (May 15, 1902 - December 20, 1976) mayor of Chicago, Illinois from 1955 to 1976; 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 1960 and of Hubert Humphrey in 1968.


  • The policeman isn't there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.[1]
Said during the civil disorders associated with the Democratic National Convention in 1968.
  • I'm not the last of the old bosses. I'm the first of the new leaders.[2]
  • Even the Lord had skeptical members of his party. One betrayed him, one denied him and one doubted him.[3]
Said when asked if he thought Robert F. Kennedy could win the Democratic nomination for President in 1968, comparing Kennedy to Judas Iscariot.
  • Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch, you lousy mother-fucker, go home.[4]
Said to Senator Abe Ribicoff of Connecticut when the Senator challenged Daley's use of force during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
  • Good government is good politics and politics is good government.[5]
An ofttimes repeated maxim of Daley's to describe his view on the inseparability of politics and government.
  • I have conferred with the superintendent of police this morning and I gave him instructions that an order be issued by him immediately and under his signature to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand.[4]
Stated one week following the April 1968 Chicago riots to the people of Chicago because of his dissatisfaction with the minimum use of force employed by Police Superintendent James B. Conlisk in dealing with rioters.
  • They have vilified me, they have crucified me; yes, they have even criticized me.[6]
A statement he once made in response to criticisms, alluding that he treated criticism on par with vilification and crucifixion.
  • If a man can't put his arms around his sons and help them, then what's the world coming to?[7]
Response to criticism for steering millions of dollars in city insurance to an agency where his son worked.


  1. Rostow, Cary D.; Robert D. Davis (2004). A Handbook for Psychological Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations in Law Enforcement. Routledge. pp. 18. ISBN 0789023962.  
  2. Cohen, Adam; Elizabeth Taylor (2001). American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. Back Bay Books. ISBN 0-3168-3489-0.  
  3. Thurston Clarke (June 2008). The Last Good Campaign. Vanity Fair Online. Retrieved on 2008-10-12.
  4. a b David Farber (1994). Chicago '68. University of Chicago Press. pp. pg 145(b),pg 249(a). ISBN 0226238016.  
  5. Paul Michael Green; Melvin G. Holli (1995). The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition. Southern Illinois University Press. pp. 144. ISBN 0809319616.  
  6. Schmidt, William, "Chicago Journal; Syntax Is a Loser in Mayoral Race", The New York Times, February 2, 1989. URL accessed on 2008-10-12.
  7. Staff Reporter (January 1977). The Man Who Made Chicago Work. Time Magazine Online. Retrieved on 2008-10-12.

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