20 April marks the day Richard J. Daley was inaugurated for the first time as Mayor of the City of Chicago, in 1955. He would remain at this post until his death 21 years later.
Daley was born to Irish – American parents in the working class south side Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport. Prior to women gaining the right to vote in 1920, Daley’s mother was an active Suffragette. His father, Michael, was a meat cutter.
Daley worked in Chicago’s stockyards to pay for his way through law school, earning a J.D. in 1933. Daley was appointed by Governor Adlai Stevenson as head of the Illinois Department of Finance. This experience would serve him well in managing the city’s finances as Mayor.
The city would make strides in major construction projects during his tenure. Numerous landmarks are associated with his Mayoralty, including the Sears Tower, The John Hancock Building, McCormick Place, and the UIC campus. Daley’s administration also made major and frequent investments in O’Hare airport, which for decades was billed as “the worlds’ busiest airport”. Daley would personally dedicate the installation of the ‘Picasso’ art sculpture in 1967, saying,
We who are here, and the untold millions who will come to see it, from the Middle west, the nation and world, will behold it in the light of individual understanding and appreciate the opportunity to be selective. The unlimited freedom of choice, this is the great advantage of urban life.