Richard J. Daley written by Mike Royko

Depraved InfluenceBoss, Richard J. Daley of Chicago written by Mike Royko depicts the life of Richard J. Daley and his career as the leading political influence in the city of Chicago. Considered by many as the last of the true Bosses Daley represented all that was considered machine politics. During his twenty-year reign as Mayor extensive urban expansion, political extortion, and a clear disregard for social justice characterize his administration. Royko clearly presents Daleys performance as Mayor in an objective perspective identifying his accomplishments as well as his weaknesses. He provides the reader a record of Richard J. Daley the person, the politician, the Mayor and the corruption that plagued his political machine.

Richard was born on May 15, 1902 to Lillian and Michael Daley. He was raised in a flat on 3602 South Lowe in the segregated neighborhood of Bridgeport, on the south side of Chicago. This simple Irish community made up of mostly blue-collar workers exhibited all the characteristics of a small town with taverns, the funeral parlor, the bakery (31). Chicago was home to a diverse collection of ethnic cultures: English, Irish Protestants, Polish, Italian, Jewish and African American. It is this diversity of community and the conflict persistent along the boundaries of racial differences, which Royko suggests, carved Daleys resilient personality. His father provided for the family by working as sheet-metal worker, while his mother volunteered at the local Church. Information regarding his childhood is limited, except for the fact that it was typical and happy (33). His early education included a strict curriculum provided by the nuns at Nativity Church and part-time jobs selling papers. After completing elementary he continued his education at De La Salle Institute, a three-year commercial high school. His education focused on developing office skills such as typing and bookkeeping. After graduating in June of 1919, Royko mentions Daleys questionable involvement in the south side race riots as a member of the Hamburg Social and Athletic Club. Considered as the worst race riots in the city’s history leaving “15 whites and 23 blacks dead, 178 whites and 342 blacks injured. About one thousand homes were burned (36). Daley refused to respond to questions regarding his involvement in the rioting, but he could not deny, as Royko points out blacks were “beaten within screaming distance of his home” (37). Royko provides the reader a chronological account of Daleys increased political responsibilities as well as his enhanced understanding of the political machine process. Daley’s career in the political arena began shortly after his graduation from the De Salle Institute. His first opportunity to hold a position in politics presented itself as a clerk at City Hall reporting directly to Joe McDonough. He witnessed first hand the extent of political power and its impact on the City of Chicago. It is here he learned his first and most important lesson, never repeat what you see or hear, it might get somebody indited (40). Daleys work ethic quickly gained him reputation as hard working and trustworthy. He managed his responsibilities at City Hall in addition to his direct involvement with ward politics, The Hamburg Athletic Club, and DePaul University Law School. After graduating law school in 1934 Daley established a local practice with his Hamburg Athletic Club associate Bill Lynch. Despite having an office with his name on the front door he never practiced law, his interest were politically motivated. He served the city in several positions during his career: State Representative and Senator (1936-1946), State Director of Revenue (1948-1950) and Clerk of Cook County (1950-1955).Royko credits Daley’s strong ethical principles with opening the door for the position of Cook County comptroller in his statement “Daley’s moral code was emerging: Thou shalt not steal, but thou shalt not blow the whistle on anybody who does” (53). The comptroller position gave him access to critical payroll information detailing who did what and for whom in Chicago politics. More importantly it represented the partys trust in his honesty and abilities. In 1946, Daley ran for his first elected office, Cook County Sheriff, giving up his senate seat and angering the old guard on the south side. Although another Irish Man defeated him, named Elmer Michael Walsh he never hesitated in his pursuit of political office. Throughout his career his reputation grew among the political elite in Chicago and the nation. Royko writes that in July of 1953, “Richard J. Daley, at the age of fifty-one, and thirty years after he rang his first doorbell as a lowly precinct captain, was elected chairman of the Cook county Democratic Central Committee” (64). In 1955, he was elected Mayor for the first time.

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During his term as Mayor he gained the confidence of the business community through large-scale urban renewal and highway construction projects. Royko points out; Daleys overemphasis on improving the infrastructure of Chicago as well as increasing his patronage left him open for criticisms on many social issues. His administrations reluctance to handle racial segregation in housing and in Chicagos public school system, his focus on big business, and later in his career the measures taken against demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in 1968 are just a few of the many social issues mentioned by Royko. According to Royko, Daleys first term in office as mayor had little impact on changing the political or social environment in Chicago. Royko stated “The syndicate was still putting bodies in sewersPublic transportation was declining (104) and city officials were still operating under a blanket of corruption. This lack of change did not deter Daley from winning his second term as Mayor in 1959. Daleys victory celebration did not last long. Shortly after the election he encountered accusations of scandal within his administration brought about by Benjamin Adamowski. Royko explained Daleys approach in managing the scandals by attempting to look innocent and to say his office had nothin! At all to do with such things. (115). This method of denial seem to accomplish keeping Daley himself out of the line of fire at first. However, the Summerdale Scandal involving corruption of the police department proved too much for the public to accept. The people directed the responsibility for the incident directly at Daley and his administration. He was forced to make drastic changes in the police force in an effort to retain his power. Remarkably, Daleys decision to hire Orlando W. Wilson, a professor at the University of California, turned this crisis situation to his advantage just in time for November elections. It his instinct and creativity in manipulating the resources of his political machine that set him apart from others in politics. Royko quotes Alderman Seymour Simon as saying The amazing thing about the police scandal, is the way Daley turned it to his own advantage.(123). Further, Royko illustrates how Daley improved his national standing immediately after what is considered by many as one the lowest point of his career by supporting Kennedy in winning Illinois during his bid for President. Kennedys election and Otto Kerners victory for Governor forced Adamowski back to practicing law and secured Daleys reputation as a king maker (123).

Royko demonstrates throughout his book how controversy enveloped Daleys career. Beginning with his first term as Mayor his endeavor to control Chicagos political environment was upheld by way of brute force and corrupt government agencies. Explicit examples of Daleys authoritarian method of leadership are given through out Roykos text. In direct response to Daleys lack of social policy regarding the poor and underprivileged minority racial conflict presented itself as a reoccurring political issue. Race riots erupted as a result of years of political oppression and Daleys personal exploitation of the African American Community. A clear example of his personal disregard for the black community is given after the shooting death of Dr. King when Daley gave explicit orders to shoot arsonists to kill and looters to maim and detain(169). His strong-arm tactics are further exemplified by the police brutality permitted during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Police wearing protective riot gear forced an unprovoked confrontation in Lincoln Park were they attacked militant and middle-rowers alike, involving thousands of people in the violence. (186). The brutality came to its pentacle on December 4, 1969 when police officials led by Edward Hanrahan raided a Black Panther apartment in search of unregistered guns.When the raid was over they had the guns, and two panther leaders were deadFred Hamptonand Mark Clark (211). Roykos representation of Richard J. Daley provides his readers an impartial glimpse into the obscure life of a true political power. Daleys genius in gaining control as mayor of Chicago and then sustaining it from 1955 to 1976 characterizes his tenacity as politician. His explicit understanding of machine politics and use of patronage centralized the power of his administration. On one hand his constituents admire him for his contribution toward urban expansion, influence on the Democratic Party, and patronage of friends and family. On the other hand he is resented for his destruction of homes in the name of progress, corruption of local government, and absolute rule over his city. Royko concludes his colorful story on Richard Daley in quoting Alderman Paddy Bauler in his statement after Daley was first elected in 1995 as saying Chicago aint ready for reform yet, (214). Royko completes Baulers statement as saying ” And in 1970, ready or not, it wasnt getting any.(214)!

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Richard J. Daley written by Mike Royko. (2019, Feb 05). Retrieved from