Remembering Richard J. Daley

Remembering the Mayor

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

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 20, 2014

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

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

I saw a man--a mayor who, over time, began to lose the broader popularity that he once enjoyed as a mayor. Certainly that became true within the African American community, as the African American community was seeking more opportunities across the board, and more positive respoonse out of governnment.

James Compton, civic leader, interview excerpt, August 10, 2010

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

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

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

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

Thomas Donovan, an assistant to Daley, recalls the many legacies of the mayor:

[H]e was a very good mayor. The city became the city that works. But was he a visionary? I mean, did he understand what was happening in those housing projects? No. And I think he totally missed the school segregation issues....He was not an integrationist. He was not a civil libertarian. He was a creature of his environment, like we all are. He was a good administrator. He was not a visionary. He was not a theorist. He was a great political leader.

Adlai E. Stevenson III, Illinois politician, interview excerpt, July 9, 2003

State legislator Michael Madigan remembers Mayor Daley as the "master of his time":

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

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