Chicago’s First Lady: Maggie Daley on the Move

FROM OUR APRIL 1994 ISSUE: With good works and a deft political touch, Maggie has quietly carved a special role for herself. Now, the departure from Bridgeport has put her in the spotlight, and she doesn’t like being there.

(page 7 of 8)

Bridgeporters always enjoyed the fact that the “old man,” as Richard J. Daley was known, was just one of them. For years Rich Daley was viewed with that same kind of easy fondness—yet he always had the privilege and the burden of being the son-of-the-father; to Bridgeport, anyway, he was the heir apparent. Like his father before him, Rich maintained a kind of simplicity, even after he became mayor. He and Maggie could be spotted on Saturdays at the local Dominick’s doing their grocery shopping or strolling down Halsted. In the summer, Rich would be out in his front yard, “in loud Bermuda shorts,” one observer recalls, mowing the grass.

But things may have begun to sour for Daley and Bridgeport around 1983, when he lost the mayoral primary to Congressman Harold Washington. Bridgeport, which is largely white, has had a reputation for being hostile to blacks. Some Bridgeporters faulted Daley for splitting most of the white vote with Jan Byrne and paving the way for Chicago’s first black mayor. John Kass reported in Tribune that Daley was socked in the jaw by a disgruntled neighbor at the local hardware store in a dispute right after Washington’s election.

Some Bridgeport residents began to complain among themselves that the Daleys seemed to spend most of their time outside the community, something that the old man and Sis did not do. Maggie Daley, as Chicago’s first lady, was busy with charities and society events. The family did not socialize a great deal within the neighborhood. Their children were educated outside of Bridgeport.

Early in their marriage, Maggie became a member of the Junior League of Chicago and joined the auxiliary board of the Art Institute. One friend who has known her since Junior League days says, “She used to joke about having to live in the neighborhood—‘the neighborhood,’ as she called it. She always wanted to live by us over in the Near North and that’s always bothered her, but she didn’t complain.”

The family moved from Nativity of Our Lord, the local parish church, to Old St. Patrick’s, on West Adams. Under its current pastor, Father Jack Wall, it has become popular with the professional set. Maggie is said to have led the defection, going to Old St. Patrick’s on her own in the beginning; the mayor followed later. “She was basically looking for good liturgy,” Mary Kay Latz, the sister of Father Jack Wall, told the Sun-Times.

But if Maggie and Rich had an urge to leave Bridgeport, that should hardly come as a surprise. It turns out Richard J. Daley was the only mayor from Bridgeport to actually stay in Bridgeport. Ed Kelly (mayor from 1933 to 1947) decamped to a mansion in Kenwood. By the time of his election, Martin Kennelly (1947-55) had settled into the Edgewater Beach Apartments, about two miles below the Evanston line. Mike Bilandic (1977-79) hightailed it off to Lake Shore Drive with his wife, socialite Heather Morgan, soon after he was out of office and after his mother, who lived in Bridgeport, had died.

By some accounts, even Richard J. Daley planned to leave Bridgeport after his election in 1955. The story goes that Daley had bought property in upper-middle-class Sauganash, but stayed in Bridgeport allies told him he’d be seen as turning up his nose at his old neighborhood.

 

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