Kelly, Edward Joseph
(1876-1950)
   Edward Kelly was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He left school early, studied civil engineering in night classes, and began working with the Metropolitan Sanitary District in 1894. In 1920, he became the chief engineer and in 1924 was made responsible for the redevelopment of the South Park, Illinois, lakefront area. Although he was not holding any elec- tive office, Kelly, alongside wealthy businessman Patrick Nash, effectively ran the Democratic Party machine in Chicago. When Mayor Anton J. Cermak was killed during an assassination attempt on President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, Kelly was selected to succeed. He was elected in 1935 and reelected in 1939 and again in 1943.
   Kelly immediately tackled the problems brought to the city by the Great Depression, making payments to public teachers and municipal workers, collecting outstanding taxes and rent, and cutting city debt by $1 billion by the time he left office in 1947. He was a committed supporter of the New Deal, and he helped to ensure Roosevelt’s unprecedented third nomination at the Democratic National Convention in 1940. In return, Chicago received generous federal funding through the Works Progress Administration and other agencies. By distributing this patronage, Kelly was able to build up an all-powerful party machine. He also attracted black voters by including African Americans in city government and supporting the election of Arthur W. Mitchell and later William L. Dawson to the U.S. House of Representatives. Kelly supported desegregated public schools and public housing. However, there was increasing criticism of such policies after the war and also of the corruption and association with organized crime within city government. In 1947, he chose not to seek reelection and instead headed an engineering and consulting firm until his death in 1950.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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