Governing the City

Man on Five

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Mayor Richard J. Daley presiding over his first City Council meeting, April 20, 1955.

Newly elected Mayor Richard J. Daley presiding over his first City Council meeting, April 20, 1955. RJD_04_01_0000_0000_098

He saw government and public service as the way to accomplish something. It wasn’t a means to make wealth as the private sector is. It was the means to do something for somebody else. Sure, there’s an ego in it. Yes, there is success. You move up. You’re a county clerk, then you become the mayor. That’s fine. But he taught us by both example and in word that you can do things in government that you can’t do in the private sector, and people in the private sector don’t do. They don’t look out for the little guy. They don’t look out for the greater good.

William Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, December 5, 2008

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I think he brought, Mayor Daley, the original Mayor Daley, brought to the city a sense of pride and leadership when it came to the infrastructure and building the city, and the vision of the city that we’re still profiting from. This is a great American city. I happen to think it’s the greatest, and not just because I represent it. But managing to balance all of the different elements within the city—ethnic elements, religious elements and the like—I thought that really took a special skill.

Richard J. Durbin, United States Senator, interview excerpt, September 8, 2014

Richard J. Daley interviewed for Chicago's 120 Anniversary celebration

Richard J. Daley interviewed on camera for Chicago’s 120 Anniversary celebration, ca. 1957. Photo: Pics Chicago. RJD_04_01_0014_0010_006

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Former Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, discusses what he calls Mayor Daley’s “political courage.” Click on image to play video.

Video: Andrew Young, Mayor of Atlanta, interview excerpt, October 16, 2014.

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Richard J. Daley’s official photographer relates how Daley sometimes varied his word choices according to his audience. Click on image to play audio.

Audio: László Kondor, Daley’s official photographer 1972-1976, interview excerpt, November 6, 2013.

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Ken Sain, former Deputy Mayor of Chicago, recalls Mayor Daley’s ability to listen to and help those who came to his office. Click on image to play audio.

Audio: Ken Sain, Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer of Chicago, interview excerpt, April 17, 2015

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Daley worked more closely with the Chicago City Council than his predecessors had.

Mayor Richard J. Daley presiding over City Council meeting.

Mayor Richard J. Daley presiding over City Council meeting. Photo: László Kondor. MSLASZ13_0001_0011_001

The city council in Chicago was always a “strong city council, weak mayor.” It was not that Ed Kelly [Chicago mayor, 1933-1947] or Martin Kennelly [Chicago mayor, 1947-1955] were weak. But the city council had its say. And you didn’t get much done unless the city council said it should be done. [Daley] changed all of that by saying, “I say that it should be done. And this is what’s going to happen.”

Richard Elrod, Chief Prosecutor for City of Chicago, interview excerpt, April 10, 2009

 

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Alderman Ed Burke discusses Mayor Daley’s “strong presence” on the city council. Click on image to play audio.

Audio: Ed Burke, Alderman, interview excerpt, October 20, 2014

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Mayor Richard J. Daley calls for a vote in the city council. Click on image to play video.

Video: Excerpt from “Richard J. Daley: The Trees He Planted,” written and produced by Joe Howard; Executive Producer Ed Planer. RJD_04_0000_0000_162