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First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley

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"Mayor Richard M. Daley dropped the bomb at a routine news conference at City Hall on Tuesday. With no prelude or fanfare, Mr. Daley announced that he would not seek re-election when his term expires next year. 'Simply put, it's time,' he said." New York Times, September 7, 2010 With those four words, an era ended. After twenty-two years, the longest-serving and most powerf "Mayor Richard M. Daley dropped the bomb at a routine news conference at City Hall on Tuesday. With no prelude or fanfare, Mr. Daley announced that he would not seek re-election when his term expires next year. 'Simply put, it's time,' he said." New York Times, September 7, 2010 With those four words, an era ended. After twenty-two years, the longest-serving and most powerful mayor in the history of Chicago—and, arguably, America—stepped down, leaving behind a city that was utterly transformed, and a complicated legacy we are only beginning to evaluate. In First Son, Keith Koeneman chronicles the sometimes Shakespearean, sometimes Machiavellian life of an American political legend. Making deft use of unprecedented access to key players in the Daley administration, as well as Chicago's business and cultural leaders, Koeneman draws on more than one hundred interviews to tell an up-close, insider story of political triumph and personal evolution. With Koeneman as our guide, we follow young Daley from his beginnings as an average Bridgeport kid thought to lack his father's talent and charisma to his unlikely transformation into an iron-fisted leader. Daley not only escaped the giant shadow of his father but also transformed Chicago from a gritty, post-industrial Midwestern capital into a beautiful, sophisticated global city widely recognized as a model for innovative metropolises throughout the world. But in spite of his many accomplishments, Richard M. Daley's record is far from flawless. First Son sets the dramatic improvement of certain parts of the city against the persistent realities of crime, financial stress , failing public housing, and dysfunctional schools. And it reveals that while in many ways Daley broke with the machine politics of his father, he continued to reward loyalty with favors, use the resources of city government to overwhelm opponents, and tolerate political corruption. A nuanced portrait of a complex man, First Son shows Daley to be sensitive yet tough, impatient yet persistent, a street-smart fighter and detail-driven policy expert who not only ran Chicago, but was Chicago.


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"Mayor Richard M. Daley dropped the bomb at a routine news conference at City Hall on Tuesday. With no prelude or fanfare, Mr. Daley announced that he would not seek re-election when his term expires next year. 'Simply put, it's time,' he said." New York Times, September 7, 2010 With those four words, an era ended. After twenty-two years, the longest-serving and most powerf "Mayor Richard M. Daley dropped the bomb at a routine news conference at City Hall on Tuesday. With no prelude or fanfare, Mr. Daley announced that he would not seek re-election when his term expires next year. 'Simply put, it's time,' he said." New York Times, September 7, 2010 With those four words, an era ended. After twenty-two years, the longest-serving and most powerful mayor in the history of Chicago—and, arguably, America—stepped down, leaving behind a city that was utterly transformed, and a complicated legacy we are only beginning to evaluate. In First Son, Keith Koeneman chronicles the sometimes Shakespearean, sometimes Machiavellian life of an American political legend. Making deft use of unprecedented access to key players in the Daley administration, as well as Chicago's business and cultural leaders, Koeneman draws on more than one hundred interviews to tell an up-close, insider story of political triumph and personal evolution. With Koeneman as our guide, we follow young Daley from his beginnings as an average Bridgeport kid thought to lack his father's talent and charisma to his unlikely transformation into an iron-fisted leader. Daley not only escaped the giant shadow of his father but also transformed Chicago from a gritty, post-industrial Midwestern capital into a beautiful, sophisticated global city widely recognized as a model for innovative metropolises throughout the world. But in spite of his many accomplishments, Richard M. Daley's record is far from flawless. First Son sets the dramatic improvement of certain parts of the city against the persistent realities of crime, financial stress , failing public housing, and dysfunctional schools. And it reveals that while in many ways Daley broke with the machine politics of his father, he continued to reward loyalty with favors, use the resources of city government to overwhelm opponents, and tolerate political corruption. A nuanced portrait of a complex man, First Son shows Daley to be sensitive yet tough, impatient yet persistent, a street-smart fighter and detail-driven policy expert who not only ran Chicago, but was Chicago.

30 review for First Son: The Biography of Richard M. Daley

  1. 4 out of 5

    Renee Harrison

    I think this was a beautifully written biography of the mayor. While not completely unbiased I think the author did a good job highlighting the mayor's successes and missteps. As a resident of Chicago I can say that Richard M. Daley really transformed the city into a global city. Richard Daley was the only mayor I had ever known and the city feels differently without him and his wife. I really enjoyed reading about his life and passion for the city of Chicago

  2. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Horribly written but interesting biography of the second Chicago mayor named Richard Daley who transformed the appearance but not the workings of the Windy City.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    I read this following Mike Royko's "Boss" focusing on Rich's father, Richard J Daley, and while this wasn't nearly as strong, it was a good read and I definitely learned more about Rich and his travels to becoming arguably the most prominent mayor in Chicago's history. As others have already noted, this book lacks a lot of Chicago history that has fallen on this mayor's watch, as well as the challenges he left behind. I would recommend pairing this with a book (or books) on modern Chicago histor I read this following Mike Royko's "Boss" focusing on Rich's father, Richard J Daley, and while this wasn't nearly as strong, it was a good read and I definitely learned more about Rich and his travels to becoming arguably the most prominent mayor in Chicago's history. As others have already noted, this book lacks a lot of Chicago history that has fallen on this mayor's watch, as well as the challenges he left behind. I would recommend pairing this with a book (or books) on modern Chicago history to see both positive and negative impacts of hizzoner.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    I enjoyed reading this biography of Daley. Since I live in Chicago, I found it "right on." On a personal level, I know many of the individuals who played a role in his administration and were part of his decision making process. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Daley and Chicago history. The chapter on Millenium Park was great.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The good and mostly bad of politics in Illinois. I found this book very engaging, providing more data on the stories I've read in the papers for years.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ryan K

    Who is Rich Daley? Mayor Daley controlled my hometown for much of my memorable life. I am just old enough to remember the election of his real predecessor, Mayor Harold Washington, and the religious fever that swept the Black Chicago community life wildfire leaving barren earth upon his death. As such, Mayor Daley entered a city torn with racial strife and economic divestment. Old Chicago was a gritty city. Stockyards, greystone, and blue collar workers and back room politics. In someways, the m Who is Rich Daley? Mayor Daley controlled my hometown for much of my memorable life. I am just old enough to remember the election of his real predecessor, Mayor Harold Washington, and the religious fever that swept the Black Chicago community life wildfire leaving barren earth upon his death. As such, Mayor Daley entered a city torn with racial strife and economic divestment. Old Chicago was a gritty city. Stockyards, greystone, and blue collar workers and back room politics. In someways, the mayoral tenure of Rich Daley saw the transformation of Old Chicago in to a global city with green, glass, and high-profile corporations. My question after any biography is: Do I know something about who this person is and what are their life questions? (See The Greatest by Muhammad Ali) The answer here was no. It read like a biographical sketch of man through his policies and politics, but very little spoke to the man himself. Did Daley love Chicago, yes (but I knew that). Was he complicated, yes (but I knew that). What motivated him? What was his though process? What were his principals? These remain questions that I will have to pursue elsewhere. I do think that if you are interested in an introduction to the policies and political landscape of Chicago under Daley's tenure that this is a worthwhile read. If you want to know more about the man himself, as I do, consider this a first step, but know that a second may be required.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    Having lived in and near Chicago most of my life, I truly enjoyed learning and reliving much of its political history. It was also fun to see how some of our current folk got started, and learn how relationships were formed and impacted by past events. The author's bias emerged by glossing over Daley's involvement in some deals and bargains the citizens are left to clean up, but overall a fairly well balanced portrait of The Boss's son. Unfortunately, it was written too soon to present a full pi Having lived in and near Chicago most of my life, I truly enjoyed learning and reliving much of its political history. It was also fun to see how some of our current folk got started, and learn how relationships were formed and impacted by past events. The author's bias emerged by glossing over Daley's involvement in some deals and bargains the citizens are left to clean up, but overall a fairly well balanced portrait of The Boss's son. Unfortunately, it was written too soon to present a full picture of Richard M's legacy. Highly recommended for those too young to remember Richard J -- or newcomers to the city.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trubman

    Definitely from the neo-liberal perspective. Didn't ignore the corruption issues, but minimized their impact in relations the what the author considered the successes.

  9. 5 out of 5

    MJC

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bill Boerst

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  12. 5 out of 5

    martin schaefer

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  14. 4 out of 5

    Oliver Samir

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarahkryan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  17. 5 out of 5

    Margaret A.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kody Craddick

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mq

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Dull

  22. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Felisme

  24. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Don McNay

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Bay

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Essig

  29. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Gordon

  30. 5 out of 5

    John Gregory

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