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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 5 of 8)

There are indications, however, that Maggie Daley is venturing into the spotlight a bit more. Many people who have seen her give speeches recently say she is becoming a gifted public speaker. Bill Zwecker says this was first evident to him when he attended the Mid-America Committee dinner last May honoring the Gorbachevs. The mayor was out of town and Maggie represented him in welcoming former President and Mrs. Gorbachev to Chicago before 3,000 or so people at the Sheraton. “I remember being struck at the time that she was so poised and so articulate and just seemed very comfortable,” Zwecker says. “She made a very, very impressive presentation, and the buzz in the room was that she was giving a much better speech than the mayor ever would or could.”

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Margaret Ann Corbett grew up in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, an older, well-to-do community 11 miles south of Pittsburgh. Her father, Patrick Corbett, was president of the Acme Bumper Parts Exchange Company. Maggie was the youngest of seven children and the only girl. She attended local parochial schools and went on to college at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Her senior yearbook carries a photo of Maggie—her dark hair styled in a fancy do on top of her head—as Senior Farewell Queen. Her school record suggests that she cut quite a social figure on campus: She was also in the Junior Ball Court and the Military Ball Court, and she was secretary of the Social Activities Committee. She graduated in 1965 with a major in history. The university today claims her as one of its most famous graduates.

In the next few years, she moved to Chicago and worked for Xerox as an account executive with the educational division. In 1970, she met Richard M. Daley, then 28, who was two years out of DePau1 Law School and who had been a delegate that year at the Illinois Constitutional Convention.

A woman who knew them at the time recalls that Maggie was living on Goethe Street and rooming with the future wife of Rich’s brother Michael. The story goes that Maggie was introduced to Rich at a Christmas party at the Bridgeport home of Mary Jo George, the wife of John George, who is now Michael Daley’s law partner. Rich and Maggie spent the evening talking, and that same night he asked her out for New Year’ s Eve.

She knew Rich’s father was the mayor and hence expected a glamorous evening—dinner at a wonderful restaurant, dancing perhaps, the whole works. But when he picked her up and she asked where they were having dinner, his answer was, “Oh, I already ate.”

By several accounts, though, the future mayor was immediately smitten. For Maggie, it took some time. “A couple of years ago someone asked both of them if they knew it was love at first sight,” Shirley Ryan recalls. “Maggie said, ‘Oh, we dated for a while before we had a feel for each other.’”

Two years after meeting, they married in Mount Lebanon at the St. Francis Retreat House. Rich’s sister Eleanor was a bridesmaid, and his three younger brothers, Michael, John, and William, were groomsmen. Maggie carried a bouquet of tulips.

 

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