UIC receives papers of longest-serving Chicago mayor, Richard M. Daley

Daley Reception; Richard M. Daley

Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in front of a desk that he and his father used in City Hall. The desk is part of the collection donated to UIC. Historical photos below. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

The University of Illinois at Chicago is proud to announce that former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has chosen to make UIC’s Richard J. Daley Library the repository for a large collection of papers and artifacts amassed during his 22-year mayoral tenure.

Daley’s donated papers are now available to researchers and students in the Special Collections and University Archives of his father’s namesake library. A ceremony held Tuesday at UIC honored the donation, the anniversary of his first inauguration as mayor on April 24, 1989, and celebrated his 76th birthday.

“This donation by the Hon. Richard M. Daley reinforces the Daley family’s commitment to UIC. The papers of Richard M. Daley are important source materials documenting the evolution of Chicago as a global urban center,” UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said.

“The documents are also important primary sources that will serve to provide integral educational opportunities to students and researchers who may want to study the history of Chicago. We are honored that the Daley family has continued to entrust UIC to be the caretakers of their archives telling the story of one of the most important families of our city.”

Re-elected five times as mayor, Richard M. Daley is the longest serving chief executive of the City of Chicago, surpassing his father’s 21-year record by a year.

Between 1989 and 2011, when he chose not to run for re-election, Daley served six terms and left an indelible imprint on the city.

During his watch, Daley took control of the Chicago Public Schools system and helped transform it from one of the worst public school systems in the country to one of the fastest improving. He turned an aging rust-belt metropolis into a global center of technology and tourism; and was instrumental in helping attract world-renowned transportation, finance and manufacturing leaders to Chicago, including the Boeing Company.

Richard M. Daley said that he could not think of a better place to donate his papers than UIC. The university holds a special place of importance for himself and his family. He said his father always believed that having his papers at UIC would be the greatest award he could receive, and he wanted to follow his father’s example.

“His greatest achievement was this university; once he did it, I was going to follow,” Daley said. “When you’re mayor, there are a lot of decisions, and I think it’s a very important record that needs to be told as to how people make these decisions that have to be made.”

Daley Reception; Richard M. Daley

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley at UIC with his daughters, Nora (left) and Lally (right) at UIC. (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

Daley’s daughter, Nora Daley Conroy, said she applauded the university’s use of her grandfather’s and now her father’s documents as a learning tool. An Honors College course on the history of Chicago currently utilizes the documents of Richard J. Daley as primary source materials and plans to do the same with the younger mayor’s papers.

“I look forward to so many more students here at UIC having the opportunity to learn directly from my grandfather and from my dad,” Nora Daley Conroy said.

The donation includes more than 600 linear feet of documents, 200 linear feet of photographs, and 30 linear feet of audiovisual items. The documents already processed and available include items from the mayor’s office, such as administrative files, memoranda, reports, schedules, speeches and news releases. The photographs and AV items, as well as artifacts and other ephemera included in the collection, are not yet available, said Dan Harper, UIC lecturer and the Special Collection’s assistant archivist.

In addition to materials that touch on the day-to-day functioning of the mayor’s office, unique items include memorabilia from the 1996 Democratic National Convention held in Chicago. In addition, a report about how the city accommodated the Batman movie franchise that helped usher in new filming opportunities in the city and materials from Chinese President Hu Jintao’s 2011 visit to Chicago are also included, said Harper, who is processing the collection.

Other items of interest include signed letters and photographs from sports greats like Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, former Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson and the Bulls 1990s dynasty teams. Also included are items from seasoned and up-and-coming politicians, including Hillary and Bill Clinton, Al Gore, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden, and former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

In addition, there is Daley’s massive desk that sat in his City Hall office, also used by his father decades earlier, Harper said.

Daley’s items join more than 700 feet of previously donated personal papers and artifacts from his father’s own tenure as mayor. UIC’s main library is named in honor of the elder Daley, who helped create the university.

Peter Cunningham, who worked for Richard M. Daley between 1991 and 1996 as a speechwriter and senior advisor and deputy, has been assisting UIC with its multiyear effort to enrich the collection with oral histories. Cunningham also consulted for various city agencies between 1997 and 2008 during Daley’s tenure.

Daley Reception; Richard M. Daley

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley (center) with former aides Peter Cunningham (left) and Frank Kruesi (right). (Photo: Jenny Fontaine)

Cunningham said other major highlights for Daley were the creation of Millennium Park, one of the top tourism draws in the country; the modernization and beautification of the city; and keeping “Chicago livable for working families by focusing on the basics and keeping the city affordable.”

Cunningham, who has been conducting interviews for UIC of Daley’s top staff members, said the Daley family’s donations are important to local as well as national political history.

“Both mayors embodied the philosophy that good government is good politics. They are easily the most important father-son urban leaders in American history,” Cunningham said. “Both of them loved the city and never aspired to any other job.”

According to Cunningham, most important for Richard M. Daley is that he, “inherited a city divided by race and worked very hard to build common ground. That’s why his support in the black community rose with every single election.”

Among the interviews that eventually will be available to the public is an interview with Arne Duncan, whom Daley appointed to serve as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools. Duncan, who later became U.S. Secretary of Education under Obama, said Daley’s mantra to him was always to “do the right thing by children.”

He said he was impressed with Daley’s willingness to challenge him and others to think differently and what he called, “an encyclopedic knowledge” of the city.

“He just had a map of the city in his head…at heart he was a builder who put a huge amount of time and energy into where schools should go,” Duncan said. “He embodied the city and he wore it on his sleeve. His legacy as a builder of the city is extraordinary.”

Also included is an interview with former President George W. Bush who, while a Republican, had a good working relationship with the Democratic mayor and admired him for his dedication to the city and its people. What drew the two men closer was that they were both interested in education reform.

“He made it abundantly clear for me in the beginning that, ‘Look, we can be friends, but I’m not going to be for you, and don’t count on my political support,’ which I fully understood. But I did want to work with him because Chicago is a vital city,” Bush said. “He reminded me of the kind of person that you could find common interests with and work for the common good. My relationship with him was very genuine, more so than with any other big city mayor.”

Along with the Daley papers, the Special Collections and University Archives department houses rare books, printed materials, manuscript collections and papers from other elected officials and political organizations. These include papers from Chicago Mayors Martin Kennelly (1947-1955) and Michael Bilandic (1976-1979), as well as former Illinois State Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., and State Rep. and Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka. For more information, visit the library’s Special Collections website.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for researchers. We have a very robust collection of materials about the history of Chicago,” Harper said. “For the Daleys, Chicago means home.”

“UIC would like to thank the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, whose long-standing endowment for the library provided the funds to process the papers,” said Mary Case, university librarian and dean of libraries.

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