Political History of Bridgeport


 

Bridgeport and Politics

Bridgeport has been Chicago's honorary political capital for the greater part of the twentieth century. Five of Chicago's mayors have hailed from Bridgeport -- a community of modest means, but, at the same time, a community with a loud reputation. Perhaps Carter Henry Harrison II (1944) summed it up best:
Among the south division's famed sections, though its light had been blanketed lately by the effulgence of "Back of the Yards," first consideration belongs to Bridgeport. The name inevitably brings up thoughts of Pete Dunne, Father Ed[ward Kelley], Mr. Dooley, Jawn [John J] McKenna and the Red Bridge.... Bridgeport was a semi-legendary, all-Irish segment of the south division, where men were men, and boys either hellions or early candidates for the last rites of the Church.   [note 1]    
The first mayor from Bridgeport, Edward J. Kelly, took office in 1933. Carter Harrison II's reflections, however, recall an earlier time. In other words, the political tradition of the community has deep roots. In fact, they are traceable all the way back to the time before Bridgeport became a part of Chicago.

The threads of Bridgeport politics are woven around two general themes -- advocacy for the working poor and ethnicity. The two generalities can be broken down further into interests, issues, and so forth, with some overlap. Concern for the working poor, for example, consists of such issues as adequate wages, decent working conditions, job security, the fair provision of public services, and so on. Ethnic considerations were a given; they were part of the playing field, so to speak. This was true for the city generally and more so for Bridgeport, as society was organized along ethnic lines for the most part. Even the churches tended to an ethnic formula. In Chicago politics ethnicity was a critical factor, for winning in Chicago meant that the concerns of dozens of ethnic groups (or at least some of them) would need to be addressed.

 

Early Irish and German politics

The Irish of Chicago are renown for their political successes. In some ways this is surprising, since, as an ethnic group, the Irish were second in number to the Germans. Both the Irish and the Germans have been in Chicago for a long time. In the early 1850s both were strong Democratic voters. During the 1855 elections, when most of present-day Bridgeport was outside of the corporate limits of Chicago, accusations abounded that illegal voters had been rounded up from Bridgeport and other outlying settlements in order to vote in Chicago municipal elections. Though that year Levi Boone (of an anti-alcohol, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic party) won the mayor's office. The Sunday saloon closing laws passed under the Boone administration infuriated some Irish and especially German citizens, which led to the infamous Beer Riots of 1855.

In rising up against the Sunday closing laws, Germans and Irish shared a mutual interest. But mutual cooperation was short-lived. In 1856 German voters, in light of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its debates, turned to the recently formed Republican party, while the Irish remained staunch Democrats. In Bridgeport this led to what has been referred to as "pitched" or "legendary" battles between the two ethnic groups. During the 1860 elections rumors circulated which warned to expect violent electioneering to emanate out of Bridgeport. When the day came, however, nothing spectacular occured. It does show, nonetheless, that Bridgeport had a reputation then, and according to the Local Community Fact Book of 1938,

...many well known politicians resided [in Bridgeport]. In 1860 the Prince of Wales visited the Bridgeport locks and was entertained by the residents of the community, who included the owners of the Piper Ice Company, P[atrick] H. Joyce, Wallace Joyce, Phillip Reidy, John McKenna, and Edward Cullerton.   [note 2]    

Bridgeport during the Civil War years has often been described as "Copperhead" (Southern sympathizer) country. The big local employers, such as Roselle and Oramel Hough, and J. B. Turner, had Southern business interests. Moreover most Bridgeport employers associated themselves with the Democratic party. In the other camp were the war boosters, mostly of the new Republican party, to which most of the so-called "Native Americans" (old-line Americans from the east) belonged. The Irish did not get along too well with this group. That certain Irish factions lent a sympathetic ear to a secessionist South should come as little surprise. The word 'independence' was dear to Irish ears, as activists in Chicago and elsewhere were then engaged in efforts to secure Ireland's independence from Britain. In short, the politics of Civil War Bridgeport were not grounded in a single issue, and, other than the Irish-German rift, little is definitively known about this important period, for it has not been well studied. In any event, it is clear that Bridgeport men had fought and died in the Civil War. One of the largest orphanages in Chicago was the Catholic Boys Asylum at Saint Bridget church on Archer Road.   [note 3]    

Once the war was over, Chicagoans could turn their attentions to what they were most concerned about -- their city. Irish activists continued to press for an independent Ireland. The organization that spearheaded the drive was the Fenian brotherhood, which had been organized on the East coast. The Fenians, however, fell apart after a failed raid into Canada (1866). The organization that replaced them was the Clan-na-Gael, also organized on the East coast. The first Clan-na-Gael chapter ever in Chicago was Camp 16, established at Bridgeport in 1869.   [note 4]     The Clan-na-Gael provided an organizational structure that was used not only in agitating for an independent Ireland, but also in asserting a political presence in the neighborhoods, in the city, and elsewhere.

The Clan-na-Gael was plainly a political organization. Certain other organizations were not political on their face, but were either by choice, or as a necessary part of playing the game. Labor organizing was one such activity where it was realized that political involvement was a necessity. Bridgeport was one of those whirlpools of the labor movement. The earliest known strike in the Chicago area dates back to 1847, when canal construction workers unsuccessfully sought a wage increase and a better foreman. Germans were organizing into trade oriented unions   [note 5]     during the 1850s, and continued thereafter to be a prime force in the labor movement. From the 1860s onward, railroad strikes were commonplace. These two decades were the beginning of the industrial revolution in the Midwest -- when manufactories, as they were often called, and railroads began to employ men by the scores or even hundreds.

Whereas many a prominent capitalist preached the moral correctitude of waging the Civil War -- but often enough were rather interested in the profits that could be made from it -- they failed to foresee its unintended consequences. While the war-time economy benefitted Chicago generally, the returning veterans came back with a different frame of mind. As soldiers they had worked together day in and day out, amid danger, death, and destruction, fighting a war to end slavery. To equate the over-demanding expectations of their employers (at subsistence level pay) with slavery was a simple one. Warring with the "slave-drivers" was perceived as necessary. The trouble was that there were a lot of soldiers, but no real army.

To put it another way, without a union, laborers were very much at a disadvantage compared with employers. Workers were able to come together, strike, and raise hell -- but only for limited periods of time. Unions of the day, many of which had only recently been organized, were long on principles and short on power, save disruption. Labor interests that were working through the political system scored a victory in March of 1867 in the form of a state eight-hour work day statute. The victory was minor because the law was easily circumvented by employers, who either reduced pay, discharged employees, or found loopholes to continue operating according to a ten-hour per day basis. Such subterfuges made Bridgeporters as mad as hornets, as illustrated by this passage by Bessie Louise Pierce (1940), which described the early May events of 1867:

In the lumber yards and other establishments of Bridgeport, along the South Branch of the river, control passed almost completely for a time into the hands of an infuriated mob whose visits to the saloons had so filled it with "fight" that all laborers were forced to cease work at the point of "fence pickets, pieces of lath, and short sticks."   [note 6]    
Two of the hot spots for these kind of disturbances were at bridges on Halsted. One was the Halsted street viaduct located on the West side near the Sixteenth street railroad facilities; the other was the Halsted street bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago river at Bridgeport. Chicago saw bad economic times during most of the 1870s. When it was at about its worst in 1877, a major confrontation took place between police and workers at the Sixteenth/Halsted railroad viaduct in which some 30 people were killed and many more injured. According to William Adelman, some of these were demonstrators; others were simply bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of those killed a good number were from Bridgeport.   [note 7]     Charles Fanning, who has studied the writings of Finley Peter Dunne rendered from the perspective of the fictional Bridgeport character, Mr. Dooley, notes the importance of "The Red Bridge" in the identity of Bridgeport. Fanning has proposed that the Halsted street bridge over the river must have been the "Red Bridge." If so, was this a bridge dressed up in red paint? Unlikely, since it was a city bridge and probably painted in the same color as were all the rest. More probable is that the nickname refers to the red color of bloody confrontation(s).

1877 was an not only an eventful year of ruckus, it had been the founding year of the Knights of Labor as well. By the early 1880s, the economy had recovered considerably. Unions soon were gaining strength. The Knights of Labor (though not a union per se) grew astronomically after leading successful railroad strikes. Chicago membership went from under two thousand to over 21 thousand between 1884-85. The City Directory of 1887 lists three assemblies of the Knights of Labor, one of these was located in Bridgeport. Of the five lodges of the Amalgamated Iron and Steel Workers in the city, three of these met in Bridgeport. Additionally, fourteen chapters of religious fraternal or benevolent societies and eighteen secular benevolent societies (not including the Clan-na-Gael) were found in Bridgeport. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, labor made gains, including eight-hour days in certain cases following the Hay Market confrontation in 1886. But concessions given could always be taken away. Labor, more and more, was looking toward political methods for solutions to such quandaries.

 

From Carter Harrison I to Anton Cermak

During most of the latter part of the period described above, Carter Henry Harrison I, a Democrat, was Chicago's mayor. He first won election in 1879. Harrison was what we may call the first big Democratic mayor in terms of terms. He served four (two year) terms from 1879-1885 and one more in 1893, which was cut short by an assassin's bullet. Harrison, though an old-line American originally from Kentucky, was popular among the working classes. He was particularly skilled at speaking to the concerns of the many disparate ethnic groups. He could address a German audience in German, and he knew phrases in a great deal of European tongues. Late in the same year he was elected, Harrison sent a resolution through the city council, welcoming the Irish nationalist Charles Stewart Parnell to Chicago. He coöperated with saloon owners to their benefit, and gained the support of local Irish ward bosses, whom Harrison included in his victories through job appointments, tolerance of what Puritans held to be vice, and public improvements in their wards. In Harrison's administration are found the roots of machine politics; although they could not be described as such at that time. Harrison's leadership was based more on charisma than anything else.

Harrison chose not to run in 1886, but returned to run in the 1891 election which he lost. (The Democratic vote had been split between him and De Witt Cregier.) In 1893, to his credit, he won by a landslide. His victory was short-lived, as he was assassinated upon the close of the World's Fair by a disgruntled office seeker. In a special election late in 1893, John Patrick Hopkins beat George B. Swift, making for the first Irish-Catholic mayor of Chicago. Hopkins, however, served only one term and did not run in 1895. Swift, the Republican candidate, became mayor after winning in the general election. At the next election (1897), Carter Henry Harrison II (the late mayor's son) won the mayoralty.

At this point in time Brideport already figured more strongly in Democratic politics, as Harrison II well knew. Daniel Corkery, who was a wealthy coal dealer with a yard in Bridgeport, was the senior guardian of Bridgeport Camp 41 of the Clan-na-Gael. Corkery was able to secure valuable city and county jobs for members of this camp. Carter H. Harrison II, then mayor, was mentored by his father, whom he deeply admired, reared with a brand of tolerant Midwestern sensibility, schooled in Germany, Catholic prepatory school (St. Ignatius), and Yale. The first mayor born in Chicago, he was a man of many stripes. No father-son mayor story like this was repeated again until Richard J. and Richard M. Daley. In many ways Harrison II was much like his father. He could speak German, he was skilled in dealing with the concerns of workers and ethnic groups, and he doled out jobs to his ward boss supporters. In other ways, he was more reform minded than his father was. Harrison II is known for closing down the prostitution houses of the Levee district, for instance. Such actions raised the ire of some of his political supporters. He did not seem to deal with the Irish ward bosses as well as his father had.

Probably the reform issue of the most widespread concern to voters around the turn of the century was the traction railway issue. The service provided by the traction and elevated companies was particularly poor in most areas of the city. A letter published in the Herald in 1893 serves to illustrate:

It is true our people are poor and working, most of them, in the packing houses, but the south side railway ought to remember that we are not pigs; and yet the cars they give us cannot be compared in cleanliness with the cars the railroads furnish for their shipment of hogs.... And the men employed as drivers and conductors, surrounded by nothing but filth and dirt, they cannot but get rough and uncourteous and treat their passengers in a way that at times makes a man's blood boil....
    /signed/ A BRIDGEPORTER, BY NECESSITY, NOT CHOICE
  [note 8]    
Carter Harrison II reflected these concerns, and they fit his plans for moving the work of public services from private contracting arrangements into city controlled departments. In his message to the city council in 1903, Harrison sounded much like the Bridgeport resident of 1893:
Morning and night they have been huddled like cattle in illy ventilated, unclean and uncomfortable cars; their wives and daughters have been subjected to conditions so demoralizing and so indecent as to be absolutely revolting. They have seen aldermen and legislators debauched by these same traction interests, while employes [sic] have been prosecuted and found guilty of successful attempts to tamper with juries and befoul the very fountain heads of justice. Is it to be wondered at if the people, losing all patience with these corporations and the managers, have made up their minds to endure the ills from which today they are suffering in order that when a settlement is finally arrived at it may be on terms which will protect the future and secure them the present conditions they demand as necessary?

  [note 9]    

Mayor Harrison, however, was unable to wrestle down the traction interests, and Chicago's citizens were indeed "losing all patience" with his inability to affect change. A more radical reformer, Judge Edward F. Dunne, entered the picture. Unlike the Puritan-styled Republican reformers, who focused on such things as temperance and suppression of vice, Dunne's brand of reform addressed primarily the concerns of working Chicago -- most notably in regard to the traction question. Because of Dunne's obvious popularity, Harrison declined to run in 1905. Dunne went on to become the second Irish-Catholic mayor of Chicago. And true to his promises, he instituted a number of reforms; although he failed to tame the traction interests. A compromise bill was passed over his veto (leading to the creation of the Chicago Surface Lines, which replaced the three separate street railway companies). In the 1907 election, Dunne was defeated by the Republican, Fred Busse, the first German-American mayor of Chicago. Busse was in turn displaced by Harrison II in the 1911 election. Dunne, who had lost the 1911 primary, went on to become governor in 1912. Harrison might have won in the general election of 1915; however, an Irish backed candidate beat him in the primary. And though their candidate lost in the general election, the Irish by that time had assumed the essential control levers of the Democratic party. No longer satisfied with a merely collaborative politician, the Irish were slating -- and winning primaries with -- their own candidates. The election in 1915 of William Hale Thompson, who is commonly regarded as having been a corrupt machine-style Republican politician, probably did more to elevate the Democratic party than the Democrats did on their own. Thompson erased any semblance of purity of the Republican party.

At the same time, Chicago wasn't necessarily completely averse to machine-style politics. Chicagoans, it could be said, were more impressed with effectiveness, with results. And the "machineers" were at least effective. The Great Depression, though, sealed the Republicans' doom. More than any other single factor, the Depression tipped the balance of power. The Democrats were ready to act, as the party had been undergoing a process of unification under George Brennan (an Irish boss) until 1928 and after then under Anton Cermak.   [note 10]     Cermak and Irish bosses were almost always hostile toward one another, but Cermak, much like Harrison I, depended upon a coalition of non-Irish ethnic groups. Cermak could, however, depend upon the support of Bridgeport Eleventh Ward alderman, Joseph ("Big Joe") McDonough. And in reciprocal manner, McDonough could count on Cermak for important governmental appointments and patronage jobs. While Cermak was president of the county board (not yet mayor), he appointed McDonough county treasurer. Richard J. Daley came along as Big Joe's assistant (and continued there after McDonough died in 1934). After a long climb, Cermak was elected mayor in 1931. He did not serve long, being killed by an assassin in 1933. The party's senior boss after Cermak, Patrick Nash, had no interest in being mayor. Instead, he used his influence (which required changing a few laws) to have a son of Bridgeport, Edward J. Kelly, appointed as interim mayor.

 

The Bridgeport mayors


 

Edward Joseph Kelly

The first Chicago mayor originating from Bridgeport was Edward J. Kelly. His father, Stephan, had come to Chicago in 1865 from Galway in western Ireland -- from one of the regions were Gaelic was still spoken. Thus the Kelly family was an ethnic one, but not a purely Irish one. The mother of the family, Helen Lang-Kelly, was German. Edward Kelly, then, was an Irish-German-American mayor. Edward Kelly was born in 1876 and grew up in Bridgeport. He worked at a variety of jobs -- and at jobs which would not seem to indicate he would eventually become mayor. His career path also gives some idea of what a Bridgeporter might do for work. Roger Biles, Kelly's principal biographer, recounts the young life of the future mayor:
Ed Kelly had his first job, as a newsboy, while attending the city's public grammar schools. At the age of twelve, when he was in the fifth grade, he dropped out of school to work full time. He was a cash boy at Marshall Field's, ran messages for a law office, washed windows, and earned four dollars a week carrying long sticks of beer buckets to men during lunch breaks at the Armour cannery. At sixteen he worked as a "number grabber" for the Santa Fe Railroad; that is, he copied down the numbers that were printed on the sides of freight cars as they passed him in the switchyards. Then, at age eighteen, he found a job with the Chicago Sanitary District, in whose employ he would remain for almost forty years.  [note 11]    
Kelly began at one of the lowest levels of the Sanitary District -- tree cutter. He resumed his education, taking night classes in engineering and made the survey crew at the entry-level position of rodman in 1889. Kelly was active in Democratic politics and founded, for example, the Brighton Park Athletic club (which was partly political in nature). He was also fired from his job temporarily at the Sanitary District for political reasons; although political connections got him his job back. Once Robert Mc Cormick, a Republican and the Sanitary District president, took a liking to Kelly, his job became much more secure. He worked his way up to chief engineer by 1920; Kelly was then only twenty-four years old. While Kelly's position at the Sanitary district accorded him the necessary political connections he needed, Kelly was more well-known for his stewardship of the lake front parks while serving as president of the South Park board. (He was at the Sanitary District at the same time.) The lake front had never seen more attention since Aaron Montgomery Ward, as Roger Biles concisely sums it up:
During his triumphant years at [the South Park Board's] helm, Kelly presided over the transformation of Grant Park from a tin can dumping ground to a beautiful adjunct to downtown. During his tenure, private citizens donated the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium, along with the Buckingham Memorial Fountain, to the newly developing civic center in Grant Park. Kelly also supervised the construction of Soldier Field and the refurbishing of what is now the Museum of Science and Industry. As a result of these efforts, he became known as the "Father of the Lakefront...."   [note 12]    
In 1933 Kelly was hand picked by his friend, Patrick Nash, for the mayoralty. Nash, who dealt in sewer contracts, knew Kelly well and could count on him.

Kelly held the mayor's office and ran the city during Chicago's darkest years -- the Great Depression. His task was to keep the city together and rescue it from bankruptcy. He also carried Chicago through the World War II years. After the war was over, however, the party forced him to retire (1946-7). While Kelly had kept Chicago functioning through trying times, he incurred costs along the way. The schools, for example, had still not recovered from the effects of the Depression. Moreover, Kelly had developed image much like Mayor Thompson had during his reign. The Democratic party therefore sought a man with a reputation of integrity and found Martin Kennelly.

 

Martin H. Kennelly

Kennelly was born in Bridgeport in 1887. He had humble beginnings as the son of a packing house worker. Young Martin graduated from Holden public school, rather than one of the parochial schools that most Irish Bridgeporters were likely to attend. In 1905 he graduated from the De La Salle Institute (a Catholic commercial and business oriented high school) a short distance east of Bridgeport. After serving in World War I, in which he had risen to the rank of Captain, he came back to Chicago and entered the moving and storage business. He was an astounding success in business and had moved to the north end of Lake Shore Drive. Kennelly, then, was an odd mix of poor origins and the Chicago business world, as Arnold R. Hirsch outlines:
Martin H. Kennelly was as close as the Chicago machine could come to Puritan respectability. A Bridgeport-born Irish-Catholic, Kennelly could cite only his poor background as a reason for his otherwise ill-fitting Democratic affiliation; indeed, he remained a Democrat more out of inertia than conviction. He was a self-made businessman and millionaire who had left the old neighborhood for the North Side's Gold Coast. A bachelor, he lived with his widowed sister in a posh apartment that belied his humble origins....and if Kennelly fit any popular stereotype at all, it was not that of the glad-handling, back-slapping, ward politician, but rather than of the distant, proper, civic leader.   [note 13]    
That Kennelly could be ascribed to both worlds made him palatable to both the average Democrat as well as more independent and even Republican voters. (He had been one of the so-called anti-Kelly Democrats during the Depression.) His fiercely independent stand, while sort of a Bridgeport trait, riled the Machine regulars. Yet the party needed a man like Kennelly if it were to avoid handing over the mayor's office to a Republican challenger, in the same way that Republicans had lost the office, in part, by being tarnished with the corruption of "Big Bill" Thompson's administration.

But the expedient, pragmatic arrangement was bound to clash with the Machine interests that had been built up from as far back as the Harrison days. Nearing age sixty when he took office, Kennelly was one of Chicago's oldest mayors. Maybe party leaders figured that he wouldn't last long. But in 1951, he won a second term and showed no signs of slowing down. And after two terms of a too independent Kennelly, the party had grown tired of dealing with a man who hadn't paid his dues, so to speak. What they needed was a man who had respectable credentials, and they turned to yet another son of Bridgeport -- former state Senator Richard J. Daley.

The party's nomination of Daley over the incumbent mayor came as a shock to Kennelly. But then perhaps Kennelly never fully understood the context in which he had become mayor. Or, if he did, he gambled that his sterling reputation would leave him unimpeachable. Simply stated though, Kenelly's continued aloofness from his party support base caused them to flatly abandon him for another. In Daley the party found a man, having long been part of Bridgeport and Eleventh Ward organizations, who had paid his dues. Having also been a state senator, Daley was tried, tested, and known. And much like Kennelly, Daley was unassailable.

 

Richard Joseph Daley

Above all Richard J. Daley was experienced and never forgot where he came from. By the time he received the party's nomination over Martin Kennelly, Daley had twenty-five years of public service to his credit and an even longer record of service to the local Eleventh Ward Democratic organization.

Richard Joseph Daley was born in 1902 in the east-central section of Bridgeport, a half-mile north of Union Stock Yards and lived all his life in that neighborhood, which was due east of the Central Manufacturing District. His father, Michael Daley, was a sheet-metal worker by trade and had been born in County Wexford, Ireland. Thus, like so many Czechs, Poles, Lithuanians, and Italians of Bridgeport, the Daley family was an ethnic one. And like it was for most ethnic families of Bridgeport, the local church was a focus of social life in the community. So was education. Often overlooked, Bridgeporters by this time prized a good education -- not so much to raise scholars, doctors, or lawyers as to secure a decent job. This was particularly true of the Catholic institutions.

Mrs. (Lillian Dunne) Daley made sure that young Richard received his education. He first attended the local Catholic parochial school at Nativity of Our Lord church, graduating in 1915. He then went onto the De La Salle Catholic high school, like Kennelly had before him, graduating in 1919. Daley continued his education on his own, as soon as he could afford to, beginning in 1923 when he began working part-time on a law degree. In this respect, he was unusual for Bridgeport. Few went on to colleges or universities; work was more highly valued in Bridgeport. But then again, Daley was no stranger to work. Fresh out of high school, Daley worked in the Union Stock Yards for a time. Soon though, he was putting in hours at the local ward organization. It was here that his education began to pay off. The skills he had acquired made Daley valuable to the Eleventh Ward alderman, "Big Joe" McDonough, who made him the ward secretary and introduced Daley to City Hall. Here Daley was employed as a sort of clerk and became acquainted with those personalities the ward boss dealt with, including Cermak's men. At City Council, Daley's skills were put to use in the reviewing and drafting of ordinances. Once again his education had paid off, and the earnings at his day job allowed him to continue to pursue his law degree at night at De Paul University. Of course he was learning a great deal on the job at City Hall as well.

Probably as a result of his upbringing, Daley had a knack for staying out of trouble. He was reserved rather than boisterous, reasoned rather than reactive, and worked toward his goals rather than taking short-cuts. He worked his way up the local organizations in Bridgeport. He was elected president of the Hamburg Social Athletic Club in 1924. Said to have its origins in an old youth street gang, the Hamburg Club was by this time rather a mature neighborhood organization, which functioned as a social arm of the Democratic ward organization. Daley continued to serve as president of the Hamburg Club up until the time he was a senator. One of Daley's biographers, Len O'Connor, maintains that it was Bridgeport, through its social and political organizations, that chose Daley as their man, and Daley was not to let them down:

...Daley was reputed to be studious, no scandal was attached to him, and he was known as a lad who applied himself to whatever the task at hand might be--working a precinct, keeping the books at ward organization headquarters, collecting organization dues from people Big Joe had put on the city payroll, quietly forcing McDonough to do something about the plea of a constituent who was in a jam of some kind and needed help. All through his public life, in fact, Daley has held that politics is the business of doing things for people. If this latter quality is the criterion of successful politics, there are few in Bridgeport who could say that Daley is not good at his business.   [note 14]    

The neighborhood's faith in Richard Daley was affirmed when he ran for the state representative seat left vacant by the Republican representative, David Shanahan, who shortly before the election had passed away.   [note 15]     Daley ran in that 1936 election as a write-in candidate. In 1938 he was elected to the state senate, and senators, of course, were elected from a larger district than representatives were. He served as a senator until he made a failed bid for Cook county sheriff in 1946. Over the next nine years Daley continued in public service in various capacities. He was made Eleventh Ward committeeman, had been county comptroller, county clerk, and Adlai Stevenson's budget director. After receiving the Democratic party's nomination and winning the elections of 1955, Richard J. Daley served as Chicago's mayor for just over twenty years until his death in 1976. Many young Chicagoans had known no other mayor.   [note 16]    

While Daley was mayor of Chicago, it should not be forgotten that Daley was also mayor of Bridgeport. Unlike Mayors Kelly and Kennelly, who went elsewhere when they "made it," Richard Daley remained in the neighborhood that had raised him to his last day. And while the two mayors before him had moved out of Bridgeport, the mayor to follow Daley would move in.

 

Michael Anthony Bilandic

Bilandic, installed as the interim mayor after Richard J. Daley died, was not Irish, but of Croatian descent. Bridgeport has a Croatian section within its bounds, and although Michael Bilandic lived his whole life in Chicago, he was not from Bridgeport originally. Rather, he moved to Bridgeport after earning his law degree. He owed his rise to the top directly to Mayor Daley as Paul M. Green describes:
In 1969, Daley selected Bilandic to fill an Eleventh Ward aldermanic vacancy, thereby elevating the middle-aged bachelor attorney to instant political prominence. In the council, Bilandic, a shy and careful politician, demonstrated a sound mind and a willingness to work hard, and with Daley's approval assumed the powerful post of finance committee chairman in 1975. In his meteoric rise to political power, Bilandic was never tested politically or challenged in a fair political fight. In the end, this lack of political experience and acumen would cut short his mayoral career.  [note 17]    

As had been done in the past, the party leadership came to a consensus, picking Bilandic as Daley's successor. Although the understanding was that Bilandic would not run for mayor in the 1977 special elections, he did anyway and won the mayor's office. But Bilandic served only two years (rather than a normal term of four), since the regular elections came in 1979. His defeat in the primary has been credited to the inability of the city under his administration to cope with a snowstorm early that year. He lost to Jane M. Byrne in the 1979 primary. When Byrne took office after the general elections, forty-six consecutive years of Bridgeport mayors had come to an end. This turned out to be only a respite, for another son of Bridgeport would return in ten years time -- Richard M. Daley.

 

Richard Michael Daley

In some ways Richard M. Daley might be compared to Carter Harrison II, having gained, no doubt, a great deal of his political intuition from his father. If it's true that it takes a village to raise a child, though, he had also learned during his young days while living in Bridgeport.

Born in 1942 and raised in Bridgeport, Richard M. Daley's education was a bit fancier than that of his father, but like his father he also gained much through on the job experience in public service. He was the Eleventh Ward Democratic committeeman until he became state's attorney. He had also been a state senator. It has been speculated upon by some that the party ran Daley in the 1983 election to get rid of the maverick, Jane Byrne. If that was the plan, it was an unqualified success; although that would imply there existed some sort of unified party leadership. However, the Democratic party in Chicago had become a collection of factions much like what existed toward the end of the Harrison era. Former state senator Harold Washington -- Chicago's first African-American mayor -- succeeded Byrne, while Daley came in third place. Washington was a reform-minded mayor whose attention to the neighborhoods secured his popularity for re-election to a second term. Washington, however, died while in office in 1987 -- some have said this was due to over-working himself. Eugene Sawyer was elected as interim mayor   [note 18]     until the election of 1989, when Richard M. Daley won the primary and then the mayor's office in the general election. He was inaugurated on his birthday, 24 April 1989, and has been re-elected twice more (in 1991 and 1995). During his term he moved out of Bridgeport, but not very far. He still lives on the near South Side. (For more information, see the Chicago Mayors section from the Chicago Public Library and the Biography of Richard M. Daley from the Chicago home page.)

By the time the 1999 election rolls around, the number of years a Bridgeporter has occupied the mayor's office will amount in years to over half a century. It is extremely doubtful that any other neighborhood of Chicago will ever match this record.

For sample views of Bridgeport today, see the Conclusion.