New website offers oral histories of Richard J. Daley


A new website memorializes Richard J. Daley through transcribed oral histories from 59 of his colleagues, friends and relatives, along with selected photos and documents from the Richard J. Daley Collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Richard J. Daley

A portrait by László Kondor, Daley’s official photographer and a contributor to the oral histories. (Click to download larger file.)

Contributors to the oral histories in “Remembering Richard J. Daley” include Daley’s wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley, who donated her husband’s archives to UIC and gave six interviews; five of Daley’s children; national figures like Jimmy Carter, Richard Durbin, Adlai Stevenson, and Andrew Young; Chicago-area politicians like Ed Burke, Ed Kelly and Michael Madigan; civic leaders like James Compton, former Chicago Urban League president, and Newton Minow, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; and Kay Quinlan, Daley’s personal secretary from 1967 to 1976.

When UIC opened its Richard J. Daley Collection in 2013, hundreds of people viewed a temporary exhibition of its artifacts, photos and documents. Since then, many researchers have viewed the collection by appointment.

The oral histories, however, were not available until the website went live on July 20. The contributors, interviewed from 2002 through June 2015, each offer unique insights into Daley’s city administration from 1955 to 1976 and his role as head of the Cook County Democratic Party from 1953 to 1976.

“The Daley family was instrumental in identifying and contacting people who could offer an insider’s perspective on decision-making in the Daley administration,” said Peggy Glowacki, archivist for special collections at UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library. “Other interviews, such as with members of the mayor’s security detail and his personal secretary, give a glimpse of the day-to-day workings of his office.”

The interviews were conducted by the late Robert Remini, UIC historian and professor emeritus who served as historian for the U.S. House of Representatives; Fred Beuttler, who served with Remini as House and UIC historian; and Marie Scatena, an oral historian who has taught at UIC.

Full transcripts of all interviews, along with an illustrated biography of Daley and a chronology of his life, can be read under “Biographies” on the website.

Elsewhere on the website, oral history excerpts, photos, videos and audio clips are sorted by topic under six categories:

“Man on Five”

Daley’s acquaintances describe his leadership style, office routines, relationships with those who worked for him, financial knowledge, sponsorship of city celebrations, presence in national politics, and dedication to Chicago.

“The City that Works”

Contributors recall Daley’s attention to city services, public resources like UIC and O’Hare International Airport, Loop skyscrapers and corporate headquarters, city beautification, labor relations and business development.

“Good Government is Good Politics”

Politicians, relatives and friends discuss Daley’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party and ward politics, approach to campaigning for himself and others, and influence in national campaigns.

“A Changing Society”

Contributors offer a range of views on Daley’s handling of the civil rights movement, race and housing issues, the Vietnam War, the 1968 riots and Democratic convention, and the national Democratic Party’s refusal of Daley’s slate of delegates for the 1972 convention.


Family, friends and colleagues look back on Daley’s sudden death in 1976 and the value of his achievements, including his decision to build UIC.

“We trust that the new website will provide insights,” said Mary Case, university librarian and dean of libraries. “Historians, students, and other interested individuals will find compelling stories about everyday life in the Daley home, the transformation of Chicago into a major world city, and the issues of race and war that gripped the nation in the 1960s.”

The website will remain accessible to the public indefinitely.

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