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2nd Story

King in Chicago: Part 2

Excerpts from:
American Pharaoh
Mayor Richard J. Daley
His Battle for Chicago and the Nation

By Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor

*

Previously:
Part 1/Daley mobilizes black machine politicians to undermine King's efforts here.

*

Coming back from an eight-day vacation with Sis and four of the children to the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico, Daley declared at the San Juan airport that there were "no slums" in Chicago, only "bad housing." In a January 26, 1966, taped television appearance, he predicted that all of the city's blighted buildings would be eliminated in the next two years.

Daley insisted that he was working as hard as anyone to improve conditions in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. "All of us, like Dr. King, are trying to eliminate slums," he said. "Elimination of slums is the No. 1 program of this administration, and we feel we have done more in this field than any other city."

. . .

When he returned ot Chicago, he held a joint city-county press conference on February 10, 1966, at which he committed to "the full power and resources of the city to be used in an unlimited way to erase the slum blight." Daley's timetable was speeding up: now he said his goal was to wipe out all slum housing in the city by 1967.

. . .

It was obvious that his anti-slum campaign was an effort to co-opt King and the SCLC, but Daley denied it. "We have been doing much code enforcement and placing many buildings in receivership long before Dr. King arrived in Chicago," he said. If the city seemed to be stepping up its efforts, it was only because new laws were now available for use against landlords, Daley said.

But the Republican sponsor of a law making it a felony for landlords to violate the building code, state senator Arthur Swanson, said Daley had never bothered to use his substantial legal authority to take on slum conditions until King arrived in town.

. . .

Though King never asked for a police guard, Daley arranged for him to have full-time protection every time he came to the city. But Daley's hospitality had its limits. When Alderman Leon Despres introduced a resolution inviting King to address the City Council, Daley's floor manager, Tom Keane, immediately shouted "sub-committee," sending the resolution to oblivion."

. . .

Daley was finding it increasingly hard to keep his real feelings about the civil rights movement in check. Even as he spoke about his commitment to improving slum housing, he began to argue that the Chicago Freedom Movement was overstating the extent of the problem. "Look at 35th and State Street," he said, referring to a once-run-down area that had been razed to build public housing. "I lived there and went to school there. It was one of the worst areas in the city, but what do you see now?"

In fact, most people still though it looked pretty bad.

In private, Daley was even less restrained in his attack on King and his followers. At a closed-door meeting of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee in mid-April, Daley told machine leaders that King and his followers were simply trying to "grab" power. "We have no need to apologize to the civil rights leaders who have come to Chicago to tell us what to do," Daley said. "We'll match our integrity against their independence."

. . .

While both sides worked toward some process for entering into negotiations, the marches continued, and the violence in the neighborhoods grew worse.

. . .

"I've been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen - even in Mississippi and Alabama - mobs as hostile and hate-filled as I've seen in Chicago," King said afterward. "I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate."

. . .

King and the movement's more moderate leaders wanted to participate in [Daley's proposed] summit. King argued his position with what seemed to be an almost naive belief in the possibility that Daley could be converted to the cause. Daley "is no bigot," he told other members of the Freedom Movement, but he "is about my son's age in understanding the race problem."

. . .

After considerable debate, the Chicago Freedom Movement agreed to negotiate.

*

Coming Thursday: In public, Daley tried to treat King with deference. In private, he called him a dirty sonafabitch, a bastard, and a prick.



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Posted on January 17, 2007


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