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
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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
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
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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