Forty years ago today, on December 20, 1976, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died suddenly. His death marked the end of his 21-year tenure as mayor and of an even longer career in public service that dated back to at least 1930, when he became deputy county treasurer in 1930.
His passing elicited an outpouring of grief from thousands of Chicagoans and others who braved subfreezing weather to pay their respects.
The city council memorialized the mayor with a unanimous resolution, commending, among other things, Daley’s “enthusiasm for life and his ability to meet any challenge.”
Numerous dignitaries attended the mayor’s funeral, including Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Presdient-elect Jimmy Carter wrote that he was “proud to have known” the mayor.
Former President Richard Nixon wrote the Daley family, remembering that the mayor had “always put patriotism above partisanship.”
Those who knew, worked with, and admired Daley proceeded to commemorate his long years of public service to Chicago and to Illinois. The Chicago Bar Association held one of the first of these commemorative events. Judge Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, a close friend who had sworn in the mayor for each of the latter’s six inaugurations, said
Richard Daley was the consummate public servant. He was a lawyer and he never forgot it. He had but one client, the City of Chicago….And the only fee ever sought, was the appreciation of his constituents, and the knowledge, that his efforts were instrumental in making Chicago a better place in which to live.
Abraham Lincoln Marovitz, remarks at commemorative luncheon tribute, January 25, 1977, SIIIss1B7-3, Richard J. Daley Collection
Other commemorations followed…
The Richard J. Daley Bicentennial Plaza:
A community college:
A public library branch:
Mayor Daley’s alma mater:
In 2002, on the motion of Aldermen Ed Burke and Burton Natarus, the Chicago City Council celebrated Richard J. Daley’s 100th birthday, noting his “remarkable legacy” and proclaiming “May 1st, 2002, Mayor Richard J. Daley Day.”