Despres and Daley


Alderman Leon Despres and Mayor Richard J. Daley had parallel careers in Chicago city politics for twenty years. They were first elected to their respective positions in 1955. Despres won five elections and served twenty years; Daley won six elections and served twenty-one years. Yet the contrast between the two men couldn’t be starker.
Despres was liberal and sophisticated; Daley was parochial and coarse. Their politics reflected the neighborhoods they lived in, Despres’ integrated Hyde Park and Daley’s segregated Bridgeport. Daley gloried in the aura of being the most powerful political boss in the nation. Despres never wavered from his reformist principles. Dialog between them in the public forum was impossible, evidenced most blatantly by Daley shutting off Despres’ microphone as he spoke at City Council meetings.


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