On December 20, 1976, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died suddenly. His death marked the end of his 21-year tenure as mayor and of an even longer career in public service that dated back to at least 1930, when he became deputy county treasurer in 1930.
There’s probably no one better remembered as the embodiment of Democratic Party power in Chicago than Daley, who served more than two decades as mayor. It might be a surprise to some that before he was Chicago’s Democratic Mayor, he was elected as a Republican to the Illinois House of Representatives.
In 1936 the Republican candidate from Bridgeport, David Shanahan, was running for his 22nd term when he died just before the general election with his name still on the ballot. Daley ran for his seat on the Republican line, but he immediately switched sides upon taking office the following year.
Two years later he was elected to the Illinois State Senate, where he served for an additional eight years. During that time, he championed a bill to create a branch of the University of Illinois in Chicago. He also served as the State Revenue Director under Governor Adlai Stevenson and as Cook County Clerk before being elected mayor in 1955.
After Daley died in 1976, State Representative John Vitek, a native of Daley’s Bridgeport neighborhood, began campaigning for a memorial in the State Capitol to the man he said "represented the voice of all the people of the city of Chicago and throughout the state.” Three years later, Illinois lawmakers agreed and sculptor Peter Fagan was hired to do the work on a lifesize bronze statue.
Daley’s statue in the capitol was dedicated in 1981 and was placed alongside other famous Illinois state legislators, including Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, first African-American Illinois Sen. Adelbert Roberts, first woman Illinois legislator Lottie Halman O’Neill, and the man whose death opened the door to the Daley dynasty, David Shanahan.
So, why isn’t there a statue of Mayor Daley in Chicago? For one thing, there aren’t many statues of Chicago mayors in the city at all. In fact, there are only two – Carter Harrison in Union Park and Harold Washington outside the Washington Cultural Center.