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Ed Hanrahan (1921-2009), Pivotal Figure in Chicago Politics

Don Rose 16 June 2009 11 Comments

Last week the world bid farewell to the corporeal Ed Hanrahan, nearly 27 years after I proudly helped kill him politically.

In his own bizarre way—he may have understood this later in life—he was a pivotal figure in Chicago politics, unwittingly igniting a change that resonates to this very day with the elevation of a black Chicagoan to a very high place in the nation.

All the obituaries of former Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Vincent Hanrahan rehearsed the same basic information: Here was this smart, tough prosecutor with a great future—possibly mayor of Chicago—whose personal police squad assassinated a couple of Black Panthers in their beds in a predawn raid back in December, 1969. The killings cost Hanrahan re-election and his political career. It also cost the Chicago Machine its iron-fisted control of the city’s black vote.

The raid was billed by Hanrahan’s office as a shootout, wherein the Panthers were said to have massively opened fire at his cops, but great investigative reporting by the Sun-Times showed that dozens of bullets were fired into the apartment of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark while only a single shot came in retaliation from within.

Hanrahan continued to lie about the killings, actually going on the local CBS station with his own physical reconstruction of the Panther apartment to support his rigged version of the raid. Mayor Richard J. Daley stood by his protégé every inch of the way.

The controversy festered for the next two years, with Hanrahan polarizing the community into those who viewed him as a racist murderer and others who thought him a white hero, standing up to the burgeoning black tide.

Basically, he was a stiff-necked, self-righteous Machine politician who wouldn’t admit error to save his mother’s life. Some of us caught a glimmer of his racial attitude back in 1964, when he was the U.S. attorney.

Following the killings of civil rights workers in Mississippi, there was a national campaign to petition the U.S. Dept. of Justice to help protect civil rights workers in the south.  Rights activists in northern urban areas were urged to visit their local U.S. attorneys and ask them to carry the message from the grass roots to the attorney general.

Hanrahan was possibly the only local official who refused to meet with local civil rights leaders. He actually installed a taut canvas “wall” closing off the corridor of the Federal Building that led to his offices, just so no unwelcome person could enter the area.

Nevertheless, Daley later slated him for state’s attorney and he won handily.

He was slated for re-election late in 1971 over serious protests. Liberal independents then put up Donald Page Moore, a former federal prosecutor and ACLU lawyer, to challenge him in the 1972 Democratic primary. Judson Miner was his campaign manager and I was chairman and chief strategist. Private polling quickly showed Moore would be a serious threat to the Machine, so Daley withdrew the Hanrahan endorsement and hastily reslated the innocuous Judge Raymond Berg.

Hanrahan eventually won the heated three-way contest and the Democrats then re-endorsed him for the general election.

The Republicans nominated Bernard Carey, a former FBI agent who had earlier run an outstanding race for sheriff, during which I first met him. Carey asked me to manage his campaign as scores of independent Democrats crossed over to endorse him—and Dan Walker, the Democratic nominee for governor, refused to endorse Hanrahan.

Needless to say the campaign was spirited, filled with high rhetoric and lots of innovative actions on both sides—some might call them dirty tricks. But in the end, primarily because the black communities crossed over and overwhelmingly voted for a Republican for the first time since 1932, Carey won a convincing victory.

The black vote had been completely liberated from Machine control—a process that began in the mid-‘60s but was limited to a couple of middle-class wards at the south end of the city. This turnaround, however, was complete, involving every neighborhood and income level.

Hanrahan would go on to run unsuccessfully for congress, mayor and even alderman (the last a race where I was consultant to the guy who beat him out for second place!). But the newly liberated African American communities would continue to rebel regularly through the decades and hand the Machine defeats for numerous congressional, legislative and aldermanic seats plus twice for mayor—think Jane Byrne and Harold Washington.

Later those liberated voters would be instrumental in nominating and then electing a couple of U.S. senators—think Carol Moseley Braun and a guy named Obama.

I wonder how often Ed Hanrahan contemplated that chain of events in his embittered old age


Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

photo Chicago City Hall


  • Trudy said:

    Don Rose’s “Obituary” is one of hate, omitting any and all significant legal and personal accomplishments of Ed Hanrahan. Rose elevates himself as pivotal in defeating Hanrahan’s reelection as States Attorney (or, as he puts it so inelegantly “proudly helped kill him politcally”).
    What Rose doesn’t say speaks volumes about Rose: He doesn’t mention that last Thursday, during Mr. Hanrahan’s funeral Mass in St. Giles Church in Oak Park, a group of Black Panthers pushed their way inside, nearly reaching the casket, fists raised, shouting “Black Power”. Hanrahan’s family and the assemblage, many in their 80’s, were terrorized and Cook County Sheriffs had to be called in to wrestle the demonstrators out.
    Oh, wait, in Rose’s view this is all good.

  • Pat Hickey said:

    \"Last week the world bid farewell to the corporeal Ed Hanrahan, nearly 27 years after I proudly helped kill him politically.

    The black vote had been completely liberated from Machine control—a process that began in the mid-‘60s but was limited to a couple of middle-class wards at the south end of the city. This turnaround, however, was complete, involving every neighborhood and income level.\"

    And yet these folks liberated by your hand have yet to name a Brown Metal Street Sign in your honor, Sir! Unconscionable!

  • Dan Kelley said:

    The greatest irony of all is that black voters were instrumental in maintaining the power of the Democratic Machine — their votes defeated Kennelly and Merriam in 1955 and carried Daley over Adamowski in 1963. Without overwhelming black support, Daley may have been defeated in his bid for a third term. Their loyalty was rewarded with complete contempt more often than not.

  • Jim Bowman said:

    Two questions:
    1. When was the one shot fired from the Hampton apartment? Was it the first one fired?
    2. How does Rose know Hanrahan had an embittered old age?

  • Nicholas Stix said:

    Don Rose left out the backstory to the “assassinat[ion of] a couple of Black Panthers in their beds.” Those Panthers were bloody Fred Hampton and his right-hand man, Mark Clark. Hampton was a domestic terrorist leading a race war, focusing, at first, on murdering white policemen. “Off the pigs!” was Hampton’s favorite phrase, which he constantly shouted to his devotees.

    And this was no mere slogan. On November 13, 1969, one of Hampton’s men, Spurgeon \"Jake\" Winters, 19, ambushed and murdered Chicago policemen, John Gilhooly and Frank Rappaport, and was then shot and killed by responding policemen. The Panthers revered Winters for his acts, and named a couple of clinics after him.

    On December 3, 1969, in one of the most righteous extrajudicial executions in American history, Hanrahan’s men dispatched the Panther terrorists. The ambush murders of Chicago policemen were thus halted, and the black race war slowed in Chicago.

    Edward Vincent Hanrahan was a heroic figure. R.I.P.

  • Jo-jo said:

    Looks like Don is embracing his embittered old age. You sure think alot of yourself for very obscure reasons. Party on Don, keep dancing on graves….

  • Bob said:

    Too bad Carol Moseley Braun and Obama are crooks. So goes Illinois politics.

    I am sure that you have spent more time thinking about this topic than anyone else.

  • Michael said:

    Pivotal, I suppose.

    Donald Page Moore was also a pivotal figure, but in a positive way. He ran aggressively, against Ed Hanrahan in two election cycles. The second cycle he raised enough money also run as an independent in the final election, and he split the democrat vote, allowing Carey to win. Carey held office for many years.

    Moore was a decorated war vet. He was also a U of Illinois law school classmate and friend of Chicago Attorney James Montgomery. Moore also wrote up the ACLU’s research, in “Secret Detention by the Chicago Police”, which Justice William O. Douglas then cited in Moore’s case, Monroe V. Pape, when the Supreme Court initially ruled, 8 to 1, there would be federal jurisdiction over civil rights lawsuits. During that same year, (Moore’s third year of practing law), Moore also won the US Spreme Court case, Reck v. Pate, which held that “pyschological coersion” was illegal. Later, Moore also served as a federal prosecutor in the JFK/RFK justice department, and was one of Chicago’s premier attorneys.

    In the early 1960’s he and several other lawyers (who, like him had made great financial sacrifices to work in the civil rights movement), were described in Time Magazine in a piece called as “Colleauges of Conscience”.

    When I asked him in 1983 why he had done those things he said “things were pretty bad and something needed to be done”. Moore pased in 1984, but this has made me remember his influence on this world including me, and I’m thankful for that.

  • Rocky said:

    Hanrahan was a no good slug, murderer. Hopefully he repented of sins before he died. By the way, it has been scientifically proven that the first shot came from a police issued .38 caliber revolver.

  • Truth said:

    How could you guys forget COINTELPRO and the sick and dirty things they did? You continually go by their version of events as if it was holy writ. My God, have you no conscience. Those men were murdered and Hanrahan was OK was that; he backed it up. Like the other poster said, I hope he repented and asked for forgiveness b/c if he didn’t he’ll face a death more horrible than Hampton.

    Freemasonry and Illuminati have it in for all of us no matter the color. You all better wake the heck up and recognize what the hell is happening all around you!

  • W. Meyer said:

    ” it has been scientifically proven that the first shot came from a police issued .38 caliber revolver.”

    Wow. I had no idea that forensic science had advanced to the point where it can tell us who fired the first shot. I guess I missed the CSI episode where they told us that.

    I guess the Panthers have now been added to the list of those “exonerated” of wrong doing… at least for that particular crime.

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