Leading the Party

Good Government Is Good Politics

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In addition to being mayor of Chicago, Richard J. Daley was also a key figure in Democratic Party politics. From 1947 on, he served as committeeman for the Eleventh Ward, where he had resided all his life. He also chaired the influential Cook County Democratic Party from 1953 until his death in 1976.

When he became the ward committeeman,…he’d distribute baskets with turkey and vegetables in them. Whoever needed help, he would get together with his help and arrange some baskets to send them for Christmas or whatever.

Jack Parker, friend of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, August 13, 2009

Richard J. Daley, about one month after he was elected chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. He is standing with three unidentified men at the 11th Ward Democratic Party Picnic, August 16, 1953. RJD_04_01_0010_0010_001

Richard J. Daley, about one month after he was elected chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. He is standing with three unidentified men at the 11th Ward Democratic Party Picnic, August 16, 1953. RJD_04_01_0010_0010_001

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Richard J. Daley about two months after he was elected chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. He is shaking hands with Adlai Stevenson II. Joseph Gill, Jacob Arvey, and Chicago Mayor Martin Kennelly are looking on, September 1953. RJD_04_01_0045_0001_002

Richard J. Daley about two months after he was elected chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. He is shaking hands with Adlai Stevenson II. Joseph Gill, Jacob Arvey, and Chicago Mayor Martin Kennelly are looking on, September 1953. RJD_04_01_0045_0001_002

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A former United States Senator reflects on Daley’s dual role as mayor and as chair of the Democratic Party of Cook County. Click on image to play video.

Video: Adlai Stevenson III, Illinois Politician, interview excerpt, July 9, 2003

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He was the chairman of the party. He had an important role in slating candidates. We would go to those different meetings and watch the candidates present themselves when he was the chairman. I remember him trying to balance the ticket numerous times, statewide ballots, geographically and racially, to make sure that all of the ethnic groups were represented.

John Daley, Son of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, May 9, 2007

Slate of Democratic Candidates for Office, with Richard J. Daley's notes, 1960.

Slate of Democratic Candidates for Office, with Richard J. Daley’s notes, 1960. RJD_02_01_0043_0006_006

Well, he was an organization genius. In order to be in politics in Chicago as he was growing up, you had to be part of the organization. That was the word he preferred, rather than machine.

Patricia Daley-Martino, daughter of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, June 12, 2002

 

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Mayor Daley’s model of affirmative action—they didn’t call it that—but you had to have somebody Jewish, somebody Polish, somebody Irish, somebody black, somebody Hispanic. I mean, you had to have everybody on the ticket. And because everybody was on the ticket and Mayor Daley always won, people thought there was something bad about that. But it was really representative democracy.

Andrew Young, Mayor of Atlanta, interview excerpt, October 16, 2014

Richard J. Daley shaking hands from podium with the new city treasurer Joseph G. Bertrand, 1971. Photo: Chicago Fire Dept. RJD_04_01_0033_0006_021

Richard J. Daley shaking hands from podium with the new city treasurer Joseph G. Bertrand, 1971. Photo: Chicago Fire Dept. RJD_04_01_0033_0006_021

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Polish-American Democratic Civic Organization, 1966. RJD_04_01_0025_0005_003

Polish-American Democratic Civic Organization, 1966. RJD_04_01_0025_0005_003

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Daley appointed Jane Byrne as head of the Department of Consumer Sales, Weights and Measures. She was the first woman to serve in his cabinet. She later served as Chicago’s first woman mayor (1979-1983).

That’s also where I met Jane Byrne, when I went to work for the mayor. I can’t remember what year it was, but he started to realize that women could play a very important role in an election. He said, number one, they vote. And he said I think we should have more women precinct captains. And he decided to talk to some of the committeemen and suggested they should all appoint a committeewoman. Now, a committeeman is an elected position, so some of them weren’t too happy. The mayor told them they could choose anyone they wanted. Find somebody in your office that’s competent and delegate. It didn’t go over too big with some of them. A couple of them he had to twist arms. But anyway, he started off by appointing Jane Byrne.

Roseanne Bonoma, Richard J. Daley’s Secretary, interview excerpt, October 3, 2014

Jane Byrne stands in the background as Richard J Daley greets officials.

Jane Byrne stands in the background as Daley greets some officials. RJD_04_01_0029_0014_0022


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Richard J. and Eleanor Daley standing with members of the Illinois Democratic Women’s Club at their luncheon, ca. 1960s. RJD_04_01_0017_0001_013

Richard J. and Eleanor Daley standing with members of the Illinois Democratic Women’s Club at their luncheon, ca. 1960s. RJD_04_01_0017_0001_013

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Letter from the Non-Partisan Committee for Re-Election of Mayor Daley. RJD_02_02_0002_0015_003A

Letter from the Non-Partisan Committee for Re-Election of Mayor Daley. RJD_02_02_0002_0015_003A