An interview with Richard J. Daley's deputy mayor and corporation counsel, Ray Simon, who served the mayor's office for sixteen years.
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00:27Copy video clip URL Ray Simon talks about media coverage of Richard J. Daley’s conflicts with the Black Panther party in the late 1960s. “The Eastern press couldn’t have been more down on Daley. They couldn’t find adjectives to excoriate his conduct.”
02:00Copy video clip URL Even in the most tense moments of his career, Simons believed that Mayor Daley acted as a “safety valve” for the city by listening to voter concerns. “Anyone could get to see the mayor,” he explains. “I oftentimes felt that he was personally absorbing the abuse from a lot of people who were angry in those years, so that there wasn’t the violence going on in the street. He was defusing it by letting them come in and tell him what they wanted.”
03:10Copy video clip URL The Black Panther party and anti-Vietnam protesters alike resented Daley, and accused the city of exercising of police brutality. Daley expressed during his lifetime that Chicago police may have made “some mistakes” in riot control during this period. Simon discusses O.W. Wilson, Superintendent of Police, who emphasized proper training methods, but also authorized the use of tear gas on protesters and police shooting to kill arsonists during the Good Friday riots.
05:40Copy video clip URL Simon differentiates the mayors’ actions toward the protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention with the protesters active during Martin Luther King’s 1966 visit to Chicago. “These were people who were afraid that their neighborhoods were going to be integrated…it was an entirely different kind of demonstration. King wasn’t here because he wanted to destroy the establishment.” He characterizes the Yippies as “kids who had so many advantages, with good college educations;” their anti-government goals were profoundly different from pro- and anti-King demonstrators.
08:25Copy video clip URL “The mayor was not a racist,” Simon explains. Many people saw Chicago’s lack of integration as the fault of Mayor Daley, rather than a sign of pre-existing conflicts and obstacles in individual communities. “The mayor was a very fair man.” Daley played host to Martin Luther King in 1966. “I think that Martin Luther King and Mayor Daley were enriched by encountering each other, because they were both good men.”
14:00Copy video clip URL Simon talks about Mayor Daley’s careful separation of Democratic Party business and mayoral duties. He firmly believed that “Good government was good politics and good politics was good government;” at the same time, he was accused by fellow Democrats of not paying enough attention to the party.
16:50Copy video clip URL Prior to Daley’s time in office, a small council of powerful aldermen controlled the city’s budget. Daley centralized the city’s government by making its budget an executive rather than legislative issue, and held public hearings to solicit voter feedback. This budget allowed the city to grow and “operate like a major business enterprise:” it allowed Daley’s office to issue revenue bonds, which funded huge projects like O’Hare Airport without taxpayer money.
20:15Copy video clip URL In the early days of Daley’s time in office, he centralized many powers traditionally belonging to aldermen, including building permits. These alderman were oftentimes to blame for Chicago’s reputation as a corrupt city, as they would often ask for political favors in exchange for city business as mundane as a driveway permit. “There are certain city services that really aren’t legislative in nature,” Simon explains. “It should have nothing to do with whether or not the alderman likes you.”
22:15Copy video clip URL “What is significant about Richard J. Daley is that he spent his lifetime in government,” Simon says. “People are unmindful of the vast amount of academic preparation the mayor had.”
26:00Copy video clip URL Mayor Daley always believed in the power of first impressions, especially when it came to “the person behind the counter”–in his case, the first person to receive visitors at City Hall. Others in Daley’s administration held fast to this tenet of good government, particularly the leader of the Parks Department, who would check all of the men’s rooms on the Outer Drive for toilet paper and soap. These small details, the Daley administration believed, encouraged the people of Chicago to trust their government.
28:20Copy video clip URL Simon discusses the differences between Mayor Daley and Mayor John Lindsay of New York, who led a media-friendly government. “I oftentimes think that if [Mayor Daley] had that kind of style, he might have been the President of the United States. He had the stomach for government, and he had tenacity that I’ve seen nobody anywhere since.”
30:16Copy video clip URL Ray Simon was with Mayor Daley at the Mid-America Club during the Good Friday riots on the West Side, which broke out after the assassination of Martin Luther King. “He looked over, where he could still see the city smoldering, and you could see it was breaking his heart.” Though the media was extremely critical of Daley’s conduct throughout 1968, including his famous “shoot to kill” order, public opinion polls showed strong support for the mayor before and after these events. “He was never intimidated by the media. In fact, he used to bait them in a way most of us wished he wouldn’t do.”
32:30Copy video clip URL “He was not a rich man, and was unimpressed by riches and position.”
33:41Copy video clip URL Simon and Daley stayed in the White House in 1964 so that Daley could testify to the House of Representatives about President Johnson’s Economic Opportunity Act, which Daley described as “a bill to mobilize the human and financial resources of the nation to combat poverty in the United States.” Daley was skeptical of the many “community organizers” who clamored for funding after the bill’s passage, especially after Mayor Lindsay in New York funded gangs–“community organizations”–with federal money.
38:00Copy video clip URL Mayor Daley had “the Midas touch” when it came to securing federal funding for Chicago. “He would never ask for anything personally; he would ask for his city, which was very hard to turn down.”
40:10Copy video clip URL Simon discusses Daley’s involvement with the Democratic Party, which he chaired in 1955 while running for Mayor against an incumbent. “He never would have been mayor of Chicago if there was no Democratic party,” he explains. “They called it a ‘machine.’ [The machine] could reach beyond the newspaper endorsements and paid political advertisements–the Mayor didn’t have any financial resources.”
44:26Copy video clip URL By Daley’s second term in office, “the party was dependent on him, not the other way around.”
46:20Copy video clip URL Even before Martin Luther King’s 1966 visit to Chicago, Mayor Daley helped to pass a Fair Housing Ordinance that made small strides in integrating the city’s neighborhoods. “It was a tough matter to pass,” Simon remembers. An alderman in support of the measure soon lost his job, and controversy would continue for many years. “It was an issue that cut in as deeply in the segments of the city that were not integrated as any could…Daley knew that it was the right thing to do, that it was the enlightened thing to do.”
53:23Copy video clip URL “He went at every problem convinced it could be solved,” Simon remembers. “I was very lucky to work for a man as decent as the mayor was.” Daley was also a man who went to Mass “virtually every day of his life.”
56:31Copy video clip URL Interview ends. Pan of the skyline.
57:40Copy video clip URL Cut to view of the Chicago Theater sign from below. Blaring piano music.
58:00Copy video clip URL Video cuts out, but audio continues.
1:00:55Copy video clip URL End of tape.