Remembering the Mayor


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Richard J. Daley waving at St. Patrick's Day parade.

Richard J. Daley waving at St. Patrick’s Day parade. Photo: László Kondor. MSLASZ13_0004_0011_019

He was the right person for the job at the right time. There was a tremendous demand for housing, a demand for consumer products, and a demand for expansion, with office space and everything else. And that’s exactly as I saw Mayor Daley. That’s what he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to build Chicago. He wanted to make it better. He wanted to improve it, both through construction and through education. I think the only thing that trumped his interest in doing that was his devotion to his family. He was about as family oriented a person as I think that I have ever known.

Lester Crown, Financier, interview excerpt, August 31, 2009



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He will always be seen as one of the great mayors, who took a very complex, complicated city in an extremely difficult time and made it a model for the nation and the world.

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

Richard Daley accepts a neighbor's congratulations after the 1955 election

Richard J. Daley accepts a neighbor’s congratulations the day after the 1955 mayor election, 1955. RJD_04_01_0012_0002_001

I think he would like to be remembered as a man who ran a tight ship and a good city. He was proud of his Chicago.

Wilson Frost, Alderman, interview excerpt, November 13, 2014



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Daley was liberal. He had some blind sides on some things, particularly on civil rights, and issues like education, and to some extent in housing. The public high-rises were an example. He was a governmental activist. He was calling me and saying, ‘Why aren’t you doing more on transportation?’ So, you say liberal, yes and no. He was the boss. But he was an old time, kind of new deal type of Democrat.

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


Richard J. Daley on the telephone while seated at a desk

Richard J. Daley on the telephone while seated at a desk, undated. Photo: Illinois Bell Telephone Company. RJD_04_01_0040_0005_006

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When I think you look back in history as to where this city was in the 40’s and early 50’s and where it came out in 1976, it’s the city that it is now, and it’s set up now to only become a better city. And I think that foundation is what was started with my grandfather, and continued on with other mayors. But I think if those accomplishments hadn’t occurred during that time period you wouldn’t want to see what the alternative would be. So that pretty much sums up what I am most proud of.

Mark G. Vanecko, grandson of Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, July 9, 2014

Mayor Richard J. Daley at a podium. Photo: László Kondor

Mayor Richard J. Daley at a podium. Photo: László Kondor. MSLASZ13_0002_0010_020

 Overall, I’d give him an “A” for being the mayor. My test would be to compare Chicago with other major cities. Look around the country at major urban centers, during the sixties, seventies, and what happened. Clearly, if you look at New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Cleveland, Chicago came through those years much better than anybody else. And I attribute that, for the most part, to the mayor. So I’d give him an “A” on that.

Newton Minow, Chair of Federal Communications Commission, 1961-1963, interview excerpt, October 2, 2003

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Richard J. Daley stands behind an architectural model

Richard J. Daley stands behind an architectural model, undated. RJD_04_01_0015_0012_007


The real burst of energy and the real growth of the city happened during Richard J. Daley’s term of office. I think his motivation at all times was because he loved the city. And I think he should be remembered that way. … He brought us out of the doldrums into one of the great cities of the world. I mean, everybody likes to talk about us as a world class city. He made us a world class city.

Bernard Stone, Alderman, interview excerpts, July 1, 2010

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Thomas Donovan, Administrative Assistant to Richard J. Daley, interview excerpt, April 2, 2009


Richard J. Daley and Eleanor Daley in voting booth

Richard J. Daley and Eleanor Daley in voting booth, 1963. RJD_04_01_0022_0008_016

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Michael Madigan sums up Richard J. Daley’s mayoral career. Click on image to play video.

Video: Michael Madigan, Speaker of the Illinois General Assembly, interview excerpt, August 10, 2009

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Richard J Daley doffing his hat

Portrait of Richard J. Daley wearing a carnation and doffing his hat, undated. RJD_04_01_0041_0003_021

How would he like to be remembered? The mayor would have no time for this question. He lived in the present, accepted its challenges, and recognized limitations.

Richard L. Curry, Corporation Counsel City of Chicago 1970-1974, interview excerpt, November 10, 2014


He was a great leader, a great person, and a kind and generous man. He was someone who cared about the city.

Thomas Hynes, State Senator, interview excerpt, March 10, 2010