Even The Boss, Mayor Richard J. Daley, wasn’t exempt from the FBI’s suspicion of being a communist sympathizer, a tool of the mob or an accommodator to civil rights leaders.
Under a federal Freedom of Information Act request, the Chicago Tribune obtained 300 pages of Daley’s file compiled by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The reports span Daley’s career from state senator in the 1940s until his death in 1976, the newspaper said in today’s editions.
The file on Daley, Chicago’s mayor from 1955 through 1976, contains a wealth of innuendoes and guilt by association. None apparently rose beyond the level of gossip.
“It was typical of Hoover to try to just gather any information he could about powerful politicians as a way of just making sure he maintained his own seat of power,” said Ron Kessler, author of “The FBI: Inside the World’s Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency.”
“It was really sort of a secret police that Hoover operated.”
The file notes an association between Daley and possible communist elements as an Illinois state senator. It cites an invitation Daley received to speak at an American Youth for Democracy gathering in January 1944 in Chicago. The invitation, which Daley declined, was issued at the instigation of Robert Travis, referred to in the file as a “reported communist.”
When Daley first ran for mayor, the Communist Party of Illinois “issued instructions to members that Daley must be elected for the Party to retain its strength in labor.”
Informants told the FBI of Daley’s efforts to reach out to black civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. In the riotous aftermath of King’s assassination, the FBI reported extensively about Daley’s “shoot to kill” order aimed at arsonists, a stand the FBI praised.