Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Leon Mathis Despres  

Pen Name: None

Genre: History Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1908 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Leon Mathis Despres on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

A native of Chicago, Despres received his undergraduate and law degrees in 1927 and 1929, respectively, from the University of Chicago, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, before beginning a legal practice.

Biographical and Professional Information

Leon Desopres was an author, attorney and politician.In April 1955, Despres was elected to the Chicago City Council from the city's Hyde Park neighborhood, as alderman of the 5th ward. Serving until 1975, Despres gained fame as an independent Democrat, consistently opposing the policies of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Frequently on the short end of 49-1 votes, Despres became known as the "liberal conscience of Chicago.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman's Memoir (Chicago Lives)
ISBN: 0810122235

Northwestern University Press. 2005

Winner, 2006 Illinois State Historical Society Book Award
Winner, 2007 The Hyde Park Historical Society Paul Cornell Award

Political war stories from a thorn in the side of Chicago's famous Boss

In 1955, south-sider Leon 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 anyone who is facing long odds, but is convinced he/she is on the side of right.