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A candidate for Chicago's oddest mayor election? Try 1933

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Think the race for Chicago mayor has taken unusual twists and turns with such diversions as the battle over Rahm Emanuel's residency?

Well, so far it's nothing compared to 1933. That's when Edward Kelly became the first of five mayors from Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood.

At a Jan. 11 meeting of the Society of Midland Authors at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago, Ald. Edward M. Burke - the longest-serving alderman in the city's history - recalled the events that led to Kelly's ascension. (Burke, co-author of two books, was one of four authors on a panel discussing Chicago's mayoral election.)

After Anton Cermak died on March 6, 1933, after being shot by Giuseppe Zangara while Cermak was with Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami, the likely candidate to replace him seemed to be a young intelligent progressive Democrat named Bill Clark, whose son, William G. Clark, went on to be the attorney general of Illinois, a 1968 U.S. Senate candidate and a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court. (Bill Clark was chairman of the Finance Committee, the same position that Burke now holds.)

"[The] party bosses did not want Bill Clark to be mayor," Burke said. "But they were confronted with a dilemma: How do we stop Clark? Well, they hit on a scheme."

The law at the time required the acting mayor to be selected from members of the City Council. So the party bosses, Burke said, persuaded a second-term alderman named Frank J. Corr - a graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law and a former assistant corporation counsel - to be acting mayor.

"Corr agreed to serve until they could figure out what to do," Burke said. "They convened the City Council, they elected Corr, and then went to the Legislature, and they got the Legislature to change the law in Illinois on succession to permit the City Council to select anyone it wanted, not just a member of the City Council."

As soon as the law was effective, the City Council reconvened, they accepted Corr's resignation and elected Kelly, who headed the South Parks Commission and who also was chief engineer of the Metropolitan Sanitary District (now renamed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District).

"As soon as soon as [Kelly] was sworn in, the Legislature reconvened. ... repealed the law that they had passed, and re-instituted what the law was,' Burke said.

Kelly, a favorite of Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Patrick Nash, won re-election in 1935 and remained in office until 1947, when he was forced out in favor of Martin Kennelly.

"If you ever go to the mayor's waiting room on the fifth floor of City Hall, you will see a photo of Frank Corr between Anton Cermak and Ed Kelly," Burke said.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on January 13, 2011 5:53 PM.

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