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King in Chicago: Part 3

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.
Part2/Daley denies there are slums in Chicago, then pledges to eliminate them within a year.

*

The night before the summit began, [the Chicago Freedom Movement] cobbled together a set of proposed reforms. True to his character, Daley plotted his course of action more carefully. He assembled a team of experts who would be able to go head-to-head with the civil rights delegation on any subject they were likely to raise.

. . .

Daley's approach, as it had been with the 1963 open-housing ordinance he drafted, was to blame the lack of fair housing in Chicago on the real estate industry rather than city government. Once again, it was a formulation that made Realtors and the civil rights movement the combatants, and avoided placing Daley in a showdown with King.

. . .

White working-class residents of the Bungalow Belt, accepting the open-housing language of the agreement at face value, were convinced Daley had handed their neighborhoods over to blacks . . . Black activists were just as convinced it was their side that had been betrayed.

*

From:
Clout: Mayor Daley and His City

By Len O'Connor

*

On September 28, 1966, Daley put a major share of the blame for Chicago's racial troubles on the doorstep of the media. Speaking to delegates attending an international conference of the Radio and Television News Directors' Association, Daley assailed the media - especially television - for giving publicity to the "haters, the kooks, the psychotics" through "crisis coverage" of the civil rights demonstrations and other protest movements.

Daley blasted the newspapers along with others of the media for giving coverage to "frivolous and irrresponsible individuals who, in many instances, represent groups so small in number as to be practically non-representative."

Daley had his usual trouble reading the speech, but though the phraseology was foreign to his style, the message that the media was "managing" the news, "distorting and misrepresenting," allowing "irresponsible persons to make outrageous statements" was very much Daley's own."

Two months later, on November 3, there was yet another sign that His Honor the Mayor was taking the offensive; he angrily denounced Martin Luther King, Jr., for "trying to undo the Democratic party."

From Pharaoh:

Daley had one more idea for finessing the race issue. On the eve of the election, he announced that King had come to Chicago for the first time since the housing summit to urge blacks not to vote Democratic. He also claimed that [James] Bevel had urged blacks to abandon the Democratic Party. Daley's charges were untrue. King had actually been coming to Chicago almost weekly since the summit ended, and had scrupulously avoided taking any partisan political stands. But it was clear what Daley was up to: he was telling white voters not to worry that the Democratic Party had become the party of civil rights.

From Clout:

Daley had boasted in the early 1960s that he would eliminate the slums of Chicago by 1967; at the time that King was killed, the slums were more wretched than when Daley had made his promise. Public housing, funded by the federal government, was confined by the Daley administration to those segregated ghetto sites that Daley's friends in the real estate business did not want for more profitable development; indeed, it was Daley administration policy that all federal housing must be built in the ghettos.

If there is a proper and apt closing to the shameful episode of Chicago's response to King's assassination, it occurred in December 1973, when the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance creating a City of Chicago holiday, January 15, to honor the memory of the slain civil rights leader. Characteristically tardy and insensitive, the council acted for a city administration that had implacably frustrated the man at every turn while he lived.

*

From:
Boss
Richard J. Daley of Chicago

By Mike Royko

*

King decided to come to Chicago, [Rev. Arthur] Brazier said, "because he thought Chicago was unique in that there was one man, one source of power, who you had to deal with. He knew this wasn't the case in New York or any other city. He thought if Daley could be persuaded of the rightness of open housing and integrated schools that things would be done."

[Edwin] Berry, of the Urban League, one of those who briefed King on what to expect from Daley, said, "King thought Daley was a despot and that he ruled with an iron hand, regarding black neighborhoods as plantations to which he anointed his people as overseers. But King also thought that Daley was better than the people around him, and that Daley could be effective if he was convinced of the rightness of King's goals."

And what did Daley think of King?

Outwardly, he treated King with the respect due a world-renowned figure, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

But a party leader recalled dropping in on Daley in early 1966, when King was establishing his movement in Chicago. Daley had made a luncheon speech that afternoon, indirectly attacking King.

"Daley asked me what I thought of his speech. I told him: 'Was it necessary to challenge King? Why throw down the gauntlet?'

"He went into a wild rage about King. Oh, the things he said. He called him a dirty sonafabitch, a bastard, a prick. He said: 'King came here to hurt Douglas [Sen. Paul Douglas] because Rockefeller gave him dough, that's why he came here, to try to get Douglas beaten. He's a rabble-rouser, a trouble-maker."

*

Coming Friday: Daley torpedoes fair housing and courts the white backlash vote. The King campaign in Chicago comes to an end.



Permalink

Posted on January 18, 2007


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