How the Daleys became a dynasty in Chicago and beyond

 
By John Carpenter
Chicago Sun-Times
Updated 3/19/2018 12:54 PM
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  • Mayor Richard J. Daley and son Richard M. Daley jeer Sen. Abraham Ribicoff at the Democratic National Convention as he criticizes Chicago Gestapo tactics.

    Mayor Richard J. Daley and son Richard M. Daley jeer Sen. Abraham Ribicoff at the Democratic National Convention as he criticizes Chicago Gestapo tactics. Gary Settle/Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 28 1968

  • Mourners stood in the cold for hours outside Mayor Richard J. Daley's church to view his body.

    Mourners stood in the cold for hours outside Mayor Richard J. Daley's church to view his body. Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 21, 1976

  • Richard J. Daley

    Richard J. Daley

  • A furious Mayor Richard J. Daley stands at the microphone as shouts resound through the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, demanding the Democratic National Convention adjourn until later in the day before considering the party platform. Daley contended spectators in the galleries were doing the shouting. Daley was seated front-row center, directly below the rostrum. It was the position of honor; but it was also ground zero in a year of political and social upheaval.

    A furious Mayor Richard J. Daley stands at the microphone as shouts resound through the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, demanding the Democratic National Convention adjourn until later in the day before considering the party platform. Daley contended spectators in the galleries were doing the shouting. Daley was seated front-row center, directly below the rostrum. It was the position of honor; but it was also ground zero in a year of political and social upheaval. Associated Press, Aug. 28, 1968

  • JOHN STARKS/jstarks@dailyherald.com, 2008Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley talk at an Illinois delegate meeting during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

    JOHN STARKS/jstarks@dailyherald.com, 2008Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley talk at an Illinois delegate meeting during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

  • President Barack Obama, right, is greeted by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, left, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, center, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn after arriving at O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

    President Barack Obama, right, is greeted by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, left, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, center, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn after arriving at O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Paul Beaty/Associated Press, July 23, 2009

About 20 years before a certain territory along the eastern banks of the upper Mississippi became a state, a man named Maurice Daly tied his ass and cart to a fence in the little Irish town of Dungarvan and set off for America. He added an "e" to his last name along the way -- and the die was cast for the most powerful political brand in Illinois' 200-year history.

The Daleys of Chicago ran the state's largest city for more than 40 years, watching from the fifth floor of City Hall as the city grew from a thriving but unpolished Midwest railroad hub to a sprawling global metropolis.

The St. Patrick's Day parade's front line included, from left, fire commissioner and parade marshal Robert J. Quinn; Stephen J. Lamb, Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union; actor Pat O'Brien; Mayor Richard J. Daley; George Colley, Ireland's minister of commerce and industry; Rev. Thomas Bryne; and John Egan, Metropolitan Sanitary District president.
The St. Patrick's Day parade's front line included, from left, fire commissioner and parade marshal Robert J. Quinn; Stephen J. Lamb, Chicago Journeyman Plumbers Union; actor Pat O'Brien; Mayor Richard J. Daley; George Colley, Ireland's minister of commerce and industry; Rev. Thomas Bryne; and John Egan, Metropolitan Sanitary District president. - Jack Dykinga/Chicago Sun-Times, March 17, 1967

Whether it's the skyscrapers that Richard J. Daley so dearly loved, or the wrought-iron fences and European-style greenery pushed by his son, the legacy of the city's two longest-serving mayors is impossible to avoid.

There are also things not seen, of course. Like Meigs Field, the quirky lakefront airport that the younger Daley brazenly -- and illegally -- bulldozed in the middle of the night in 2003. And then there's a trail of Daley pals either shamed or jailed for various corruption schemes, part of a long-tolerated, wink-and-nod "Chicago way" of doing city business.

The elder Mayor Daley struggled to reconcile his neighborhood tribalism with the growing civil rights movement and anti-war protests. And his son watched grand plans for his city spiral into sweetheart deals and crippling budget deficits.

But the Daley Machine also saw Chicago's fortunes grow while other Rust Belt cities declined. And they helped elect two Democratic presidents while wielding the kind of statewide clout in Springfield that a small army of Machine-bred representatives and senators can make possible.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, center, celebrates his 70th birthday at City Hall with his sons, from left, Michael, Richard M., William and John. The cake was a replica of the Hancock Center.
Mayor Richard J. Daley, center, celebrates his 70th birthday at City Hall with his sons, from left, Michael, Richard M., William and John. The cake was a replica of the Hancock Center. - Chicago Sun-Times, May 15, 1972

Richard J. Daley, great-grandson of Maurice, was born in the city's Bridgeport neighborhood in 1902, not far from where he lived when he died 74 years later. He rose through the ranks of Democratic politics by building a reputation as both an old-school ward heeler and nimble numbers cruncher. Lacking the oratorical flourish of so many politicians of the day, he prided himself on getting things done.

"Good government is good politics," he liked to say. And he correctly surmised that few would mind if city payrolls were stocked with Daley Machine foot soldiers, so long as the trash got collected and the streets got plowed.

When he arrived at his desk in City Hall every morning, he was greeted with a list of the names of new city workers, along with their political sponsors. His ride home in the evening often took a wandering path, stopping at various wakes and retirement parties, each visit cementing that particular family's multigenerational allegiance to the Democratic Party.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, center, joins his family for a stroll through the neighborhood near his home on Easter Sunday. With him, from left, are Richard M., Mary Carol, Mrs. Daley, John, Billy, Eleanor and Michael.
Mayor Richard J. Daley, center, joins his family for a stroll through the neighborhood near his home on Easter Sunday. With him, from left, are Richard M., Mary Carol, Mrs. Daley, John, Billy, Eleanor and Michael. - Chicago Sun-Times, April 1, 1965

While the husband was running the city, his beloved wife, Sis, was raising a brood of seven children. Little Richie, the firstborn son, came along in 1942. Then came Michael, a prominent lawyer and the only son who stayed away from politics (unless, ahem, you count helping clients win city zoning cases). Then there was John, a former state senator and state representative who is still a Cook County commissioner. He is also the 11th Ward Democratic committeeman, a job that has been in the Daley family since the 1940s.

William Daley, the youngest son, is the only one to have officially stepped onto the national political stage, serving as both U.S. commerce secretary under President Bill Clinton and White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama.

In 2013, Bill Daley briefly ran for Illinois governor, only to drop out of the race a few months after entering it, citing personal reasons.

Richard M. Daley is sworn in as Cook County state's attorney at the Daley Center in Chicago as his wife Maggie holds the Bible.
Richard M. Daley is sworn in as Cook County state's attorney at the Daley Center in Chicago as his wife Maggie holds the Bible. - Chuck Kirman/Chicago Sun-Times, Dec. 1, 1980

But it was Richard M. Daley who made the family name synonymous with big city clout, eclipsing even his father's run on the fifth floor.

Even as business-hub suburbs like Naperville and Schaumburg sprouted gleaming corporate headquarters, Daley presided over continued growth downtown. And Millennium Park, his crown jewel, remains a source of civic pride, perhaps allowing the memory of his failed Olympic bid to fade.

His administration also was marked by a series of scandals, including the "Hired Truck" scandal, in which the city government leased hundreds of privately owned dump trucks that did little or no work, wasting $40 million a year. News reports about the program fueled a swift-moving federal investigation that led to the indictments of 49 people on public corruption-related charges. All were convicted, except for one individual who died after being charged.

• Illinois 200 is produced as a project of the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors. Find previous stories at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Illinois-Bicentennial/.

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