The Daley family in 1955: Standing, Mary Carol and Richard M. Sitting, left to right, Michael, Eleanor, John, Eleanor “Sis” and Richard J. Daley. Sitting on the floor, William. No shown, Patricia. Sun-Times Files.

Ten things you might not know about the Daleys

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As the long-time first family of Chicago politics, the Daleys have probably been publicly dissected more than any other local clan.

But a new website from the University of Illinois Chicago memorializing Richard J. Daley has put new personal information into the public domain that might surprise even the most devoted Daley-phile.

For your reading enjoyment, and nothing more, here are 10 things you might not have known about the Daleys gleaned from transcripts of interviews in the oral history “Remembering Richard J. Daley.”

1.) The first Mayor Daley was known as a hard-nosed politician who kept a tight rein on the Cook County Democratic Machine and who dealt sternly with those would opposed him. But at home?

“I was the disciplinarian,” said his wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley, during a series of interviews that began in 2002, the last coming just four days before her death in 2003.

“My father was a soft touch,” agreed their son, Michael. “He never disciplined us. He wouldn’t discipline the dog!”


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2.) The late mayor Daley also had a reputation as a financial and budgetary whiz. Among his first big jobs in government were Cook County comptroller and state revenue director. As mayor, he was said to know the city budget backward and forward. And at home?

Mrs. Daley said she always handled the household finances.

“I wrote the checks. I handled the money for the children and all. I paid the bills,” she said.

3.) The Daleys have always been known as being among Chicago’s most devoted White Sox fans. Richard J. Daley had box seats near the team’s dugout, which his sons have held onto ever since.

But just down the street from the ballpark at 3536 S. Lowe, there may have been divided loyalties under the roof of the Daley family home, where Mrs. Daley was regarded as perhaps the family’s biggest baseball fan, following the games on radio or TV.

“You don’t call here when the games are on, especially when the Yankees are playing. They won’t answer,” Michael Daley noted while monitoring his mother’s interviews.

“I love the Yankees,” Mrs. Daley allowed.

On one of the first dates between her and the future mayor, he took her to Wrigley Field for the 1932 World Series between the Cubs and Yankees starring Babe Ruth.

4.) When something had to be repaired around the Daley home, the person to do it was the mayor’s father, known as Big Mike, who lived with them.

He was called Big Mike to differentiate him from the mayor’s son, not because of his own stature. The retired sheet metal worker stood about 5 foot 3. But by all accounts he was a very handy guy.

As for Big Mike’s son, the mayor, “he couldn’t drive a nail,” Mrs. Daley said.

5.) Mayor Daley never addressed his parents as mother and father or mom and dad, but instead by their first names, Lil and Mike.


Richard J. Daley and family in 1945. Center: Lillian and Michael Daley. Back row: Eleanor “Sis” and Richard J. Daley and children, left to right, Mary Carol, Richard, Eleanor, Michael and Pat. Sun-Times files.

6.) The Daleys employed a cook who would prepare most of the evening meals for the family.

7.)Mrs. Daley was a member of Ronald Reagan’s fan club. This was when he was still a movie star.

8.) Long before President Bill Clinton got in a jam for bringing political supporters to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, the Daleys stayed there as John F. Kennedy’s guests. They came back with the kids during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and stayed in the third floor guest rooms, taking an unauthorized walk around the roof of the White House.


President John F. Kennedy poses with Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago and family in the Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C. Included are William Daley; Mayor Daley; President Kennedy; Mrs. Eleanor Daley; John Daley; Michael Daley. The daughters are: Patricia; Mary; and Eleanor. January 21, 1961 photo by Abbie Rowe courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

9.) The assassination of President Kennedy was one of those seminal events in which those who were alive at the time can tell you where they were when they heard the news.

So where was Richard M. Daley, who would go on to surpass his father’s tenure as mayor?

According to Ald. Edward M. Burke, Daley was seated alongside him in the front seat of Burke’s car, on their way home from school at DePaul University.

“I used to drive him to school every day,” Burke said.

When they heard the news on the car radio, Burke said they returned to campus to follow developments from the student union.

10.) Richard J. Daley seriously considered running for governor on the same ticket with John F. Kennedy in 1960.

“He decided not to run, but he was thinking of it,” Michael Daley said. What changed his mind?

“It was because there would be a Catholic governor and a Catholic president. And he was concerned about that issue in a state like Illinois,” Michael said.

Former Commerce Secretary William Daley said his father liked to joke that he told Kennedy:“If two Irish Catholics run, one for governor and one for president, one of us is going to lose. And it’s not going to be me.”

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