Frank Sullivan, press secretary for Mayor Richard J. Daley, dies at 91

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“This is what happens when people charge a police line: Blood is shed,” he told a press conference on Aug. 29, 1968, the day after the tear-gassed showdown in front of the Conrad Hilton hotel, site of the convention that nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the Democratic presidential candidate.

Though Sullivan had been a reporter himself, for the Chicago Sun-Times, he blamed journalists and the three television networks in particular for abetting the violence.  

“The national media lusted for a conflict in Chicago,” he said in later years. “Everything the media did was to set a tone of conflict. We were really floored by the whole situation . . . at the animosity of the three networks.”

Sullivan became Daley’s press secretary during another crisis for the mayor.

In 1973, Earl Bush, Daley’s press secretary since his election as mayor in 1955, was forced to resign after his ownership interest in an airport advertising agency that did business with the city came to light.

Bush was convicted of 11 counts of mail fraud in 1974. The same week, two aldermen—including Daley’s City Council floor leader Thomas Keane—also were convicted on federal charges.

Sullivan succeeded Bush and was at Daley’s side during his recovery from a stroke in 1974 and his election to a sixth and final term in 1975. When Daley died in 1976, it was Sullivan who announced the death in front of the building at 900 N. Michigan Ave., where the mayor had collapsed in his doctor’s office.

During a WTTW appearance with comedian and activist Dick Gregory on the 10th anniversary of Daley’s death, Sullivan said of the ’68 convention, "The events had a harmful effect on the mayor."

Sullivan, a Korean War veteran, grew up in Edgewater and graduated from Loyola Academy and Loyola University of Chicago. He had been a City Hall reporter when Daley tapped him for the police department job not long before the convention.

"They really did not have a professional spokesperson," said Molly Sullivan, a former spokeswoman for various city agencies, including the CTA and the Chicago Fire Department. "This was the first iteration of it." 

She recalled her father’s frenetic days as a mayoral press secretary—"The phone was always ringing in our house. It was crazy"—and what he’d tell Laszlo Kondor, a photographer he’d hired for the office: "Laz, the beat goes on. Now, let’s get to the next thing."  

Sullivan later pursued a career in public relations and wrote “Legend: The Only Inside Story about Richard J. Daley,” published in 1989, weeks after Daley’s son, Richard M., became mayor.

In a review of the book in the Tribune, the newspaper’s City Hall reporter Robert Davis, wrote, "Much of ‘Legend’ consists of Sullivan`s frequent diatribes against the news media, a generalized but monolithic force dedicated, in Sullivan’s mind, to destroying the myth of Richard J. Daley both before and after his death. In some chapters, his praise of Daley takes on mythic proportions, but then, just as abruptly, he will drop little unexplained tidbits that do nothing less than back up the criticism he loathes.”

The New York Times said Sullivan defended the senior Daley “against charges that he was a racist or an anti-Semite but notes that the mayor had no Blacks and only one Jew in his inner circle of advisers. But there is little question about how Daley felt toward reporters.” Sullivan quoted Daley as saying: “There is nothing more immoral than a newspaperman. You ought to know, Frank, you were one of them.”

As a reporter, “He wasn’t afraid at that time to find things that were going wrong with the administration,” political consultant Don Rose remembers. Later, in the city’s employ, Rose said, "He was a true believer."

Visitation is from 3 to 7 p.m. on June 25 at the Curley Funeral Home in Chicago Ridge and for a half an hour before a 10 a.m. Mass the following day at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, 6435 S. Kilbourn Ave., Chicago.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

June 22, 2021 at 03:27PM

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