In 1955, south-sider Leon M. Despres was elected to the Chicago City Council-the same year that Paddy Bauler famously uttered that ""Chicago ain't ready for reform."" Ready or not, Chicago got twenty years of reform efforts from Despres, one of the few independents in the council and the most liberal alderman in the city. His demand to cut out the corrupt sale of city driveway permits made him enemies from the very beginning. Over the years his crusades to ban discrimination, preserve Chicago landmark buildings, and gain equality for African-Americans-when Daley-beholden African-American council members refused to help-threw wrench after wrench into the Machine. And, not incidentally, changed the city. But Challenging the Daley Machine is more than a memoir. It's a historical portrait of the way things were done under the Boss. when changing times and a changing city forced the Machine to confront the problems Despres championed. His battles against the seemingly monolithic Machine are also an inspiration to those who face long odds, but remain convinced that they are on the side of right.
Leon M. Despres was born in 1908 in Chicago. He graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1929. Since leaving the Chicago City Council in 1975 he has served as a parliamentarian for the Jane Byrne and Harold Washington administrations and worked as an attorney, teacher, and lecturer. Despres lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Kenan Heise spent seven years as a Franciscan monk before starting a thirty-year career at the Chicago Tribune. His many books include Chicago the Beautiful (Bonus, 2001) and Resurrection Mary: A Ghost Story (Chicago Historical Bookworks, 1990).