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This is a biography of mayor Richard J. Daley. It is the story of his rise from the working-class Irish neighbourhood of his childhood to his role as one of the most important figures in 20th century American politics.
Like all good biographies, this first full account of the life of Richard Daley does more than tell the story of an individual. In the course of telling Daley's tale--from his birth (in 1902) to his death (in 1976)--journalists Cohen and Taylor also chronicle the history of 20th-century Chicago. They capture the grittiness of Daley's boyhood--the day-to-day of life near the stockyards, the importance of ethnicity in local neighborhoods and the city's seemingly paradoxical combination of parochialism and diversity, dynamic growth and resistance to change. Initiated into machine politics as a young man, Daley quickly embraced the machine's values of order, allegiance, authority and, above all, the pursuit of power. Later, he ran the city in accordance with these values; the authors explain that he always assessed his options in terms of what would both enhance his power and encourage Chicagoans to stay in their proper place. Cohen (a senior writer at Time) and Taylor (literary editor and Sunday magazine editor of the Chicago Tribune) use the most famous crisis during his tenure, the 1968 Democratic convention, to illustrate how the mayor's rigid values dictated his actions--but more importantly, they say, his myopic passion for order worked together with his deep racism to shape modern Chicago. And, they argue, his legacy is a cultural legacy--through him, early 20th-century ethnic narrow-mindedness shaped everything from the character of Chicago politics to its landscape. (Constructed during his tenure, Chicago's freeways and housing projects keep everyone, especially blacks, in their places.) Penetrating, nonsensationalistic and exhaustive, this is an impressive and important biography. 16 pages b&w illus. not seen by PW.