The Chicago Way – 1915 to 1955

William "Big Bill" Thompson

William "Big Bill" Thompson

As I noted earlier, Obamanation is attempting to rewrite history in an astonishing attempt to convince people that Illinois isn’t really corrupt.  So I thought I’s give a little history lesson on Chicago politics, starting with the Prohibition era.

William Hale Thompson (May 14, 1869 – March 19, 1944) was mayor of Chicago from 1915 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931.

Known as “Big Bill”, Thompson was the last Republican to serve as Mayor of Chicago. Early in his mayoral career, Thompson began to amass a war chest to support an eventual run for the Presidency by charging city drivers and inspectors $3 per month. In 1927, Al Capone’s support allowed Thompson to return to the mayor’s office.

Pledging to clean up Chicago and remove the crooks, Thompson instead turned his attention to the reformers, whom he considered the real criminals. During this final term in office, the “Pineapple Primary” occurred (April 10, 1928), so-called because of the bombs used to intimidate politicians. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre also took place while Thompson was mayor.

Amid growing discontent with Thompson’s leadership – particularly in the area of cleaning up Chicago’s reputation as the capital of organized crime – he was defeated in 1931 by Democrat Anton Cermak.

Thompson had had a longstanding rivalry with the McCormick family, including Robert Rutherford McCormick who published the Chicago Tribune.  After Thompson’s defeat, the Chicago Tribune wrote that:

For Chicago Thompson has meant filth, corruption, obscenity, idiocy and bankruptcy…. He has given the city an international reputation for moronic buffoonery, barbaric crime, triumphant hoodlumism, unchecked graft, and a dejected citizenship. He nearly ruined the property and completely destroyed the pride of the city. He made Chicago a byword for the collapse of American civilization. In his attempt to continue this he excelled himself as a liar and defamer of character.

Upon Thompson’s death, two safe deposit boxes in his name were discovered to contain nearly $1.5 million in cash.

William Emmett Dever (March 13, 1862–September 3, 1929) served as the Democratic mayor of Chicago from 1923 to 1927.

In 1923, Democratic party boss George Brennan selected Dever as having the best chance of defeating incumbent mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson. Dever ran on a reform platform and Thompson withdrew from the race in favor of Arthur C. Leuder, who was easily defeated by Dever.

Dever fought against the corrupting influence of bootleggers and gangsters. Despite considering himself a “wet”, he enforced prohibition since it was the law of the land. The media labeled his war on bootleggers as the “Great Beer War” and it resulted in a decline of crime.

By 1925, Chicago was in the middle of a gang war and many public officials were murdered. Dever tried to stem the violence and noted that although prohibition was a “tremendous mistake,” he had no choice but to enforce it.   Dever ran for re-election in 1927 against “Big Bill” Thompson, who defeated him by 83,000 votes.

Anton (Tony) Joseph Cermak, (May 9, 1873 – March 6, 1933) was the mayor of Chicago from 1931 until his assassination in 1933.

While shaking hands with President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida, on February 15, 1933, Cermak was shot and mortally wounded when Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to assassinate Roosevelt, hit Cermak instead.

Later, rumors circulated that Cermak, not Roosevelt, had been the intended target, as his promise to clean up Chicago’s rampant lawlessness posed a threat to Al Capone and the Chicago organized crime syndicate.  According to Roosevelt biographer Jean Edward Smith, there is no proof for this theory.

Edward Joseph Kelly (May 1, 1876 – October 20, 1950) mayor of Chicago from 1933 to 1947.

Following the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak Kelly was hand picked by his friend, Patrick Nash, Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, for the mayoralty election of 1933. Together, Kelly and Nash built one of the most powerful, and most corrupt, big city political organizations, called the “Kelly-Nash Machine.”

Martin H. Kennelly (August 11, 1887 – November 29, 1961) served as the Democratic mayor of Chicago from 1947 to 1955.

When the city administration of Edward J. Kelly was threatened with defeat by corruption, scandal and Kelly’s liberal integrationist policies the Cook County Democratic Party Machine responded by dumping Kelly and slating the “reformist” Kennelly in his place.  Kennelly was elected Mayor of Chicago in 1947 and re-elected in 1951.

Kennelly proved to be too independent and reform oriented for his regular Democratic Party sponsors and was dumped by the party bosses at the 1955 endorsement slating in favor of Richard J. Daley. Daley soundly defeated Kennelly in the 1955 Democratic Primary and went on to election in 1955.

Tomorrow:  Richard J. Daley

(all references from Wikipedia)

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One Response to The Chicago Way – 1915 to 1955

  1. Fredster says:

    Knowing your fondness for country music, I found this one and had to post it for ya.

    Let’s see if this one goes up at RD’s. ! 😆

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