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Richard J. Daley

Richard Joseph Daley, known as the last "big boss" in Chicago, was born May 15, 1902, to Catholic parents near Chicago's south side stockyards. Daley began his career in politics directly after high school when he landed a position as a personal secretary to an alderman at the Chicago City Hall. Daley earned his law degree in 1934 after many long years of evening classes at the DePaul University School of Law. Within a short time of his graduation, Daley was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1936 to serve out the term for Republican David Shanahan. After completing the term, Daley returned to the Democratic Party to which he would remain loyal throughout the rest of his life. He served as mayor, beginning in 1955, until his death in 1976. Soon after becoming mayor, Daley became well known for his tolerance of corruption, although he professed personal honesty. During his mayoral tenure, Daley is said to have saved the city from collapse by revitalizing the downtown area, securing middle-class taxpayers within its city limits, and accomplishing such major construction projects as O'Hare International Airport, the Sears Tower, the University of Illinois, Chicago; and other Chicago landmarks. As a public supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson, his loyalty won him the honor of hosting the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where he maintained more peace officers than George Washington's army to keep protesters at bay. "Unruly protestors," along with the media and innocent bystanders, were clubbed and sprayed with mace, while such actions were publicized by the media as a "police riot." As a result, Daley was subpoenaed to testify for the defense in the 1969-70 Chicago Seven Trial, wherein notorious defendant Abbie Hoffman approached him with a clenched fist and said, "Why don't you and I settle this whole business right now, just the two of us?" Daley laughed in response. The mayor was seen as a man who "got things done" by some and by others as a corrupt, racist, and cruel Democrat. Only a week after his death on December 20, 1976, one of the Chicago city colleges was renamed to Richard J. Daley College in his honor.