The Night Richard J. Daley Bought NBC for JFK

Friday, November 4 1960

Video from the Vault of Rich Samuels

Curator's note: Click here if you wish to skip the introductory material and proceed directly to the video of which there are three parts. The entire broadcast runs sixty minutes. Will Barack Obama ever acquire a television presence as powerful as the one John F. Kennedy projected half a century ago? Will the Cook County Democrats ever again sponsor a coast-to-coast political broadcast?

John F. Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Richard J. Daley
Above: Presidential candidate Senator John F. Kennedy and Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley on the floor of the Chicago Stadium shortly after 8:30pm on Friday, November 4th, 1960. In the background you can see his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Much has been made of Richard J. Daley's efforts to ensure that Senator John F. Kennedy prevailed at the polls on November 8th, 1960.

A key---though largely undocumented---element of that effort was the purchase of half an hour of prime time on the NBC television network by the Democratic Party of Cook County so that the nation could watch J.F.K. addressing a wildly enthusiastic crowd at the Chicago Stadium on the Friday before the election.

It is normal for local political organizations to purchase time locally to promote candidates. But for a local organization to purchase national television time is a rarity indeed.

What viewers from coast-to-cast saw the night of February 4th, 1960, was Senator John F. Kennedy at his best, thanks to a local party organization at its most powerful.

Viewers within range of WNBQ-TV (Chicago's NBC owned-and-operated station now known as WMAQ-TV) saw an additional half-hour that preceded the Kennedy speech---the culmination of what might have been the ultimate "torch light parade" honoring not only the head of the ticket but its state and local components as well.
Headline from the Chicago Daily News

Richard J. Daley's purchase of the 8-8:30 half hour on Channel 5 had the added benefit of locking the Republican national organization out of the Chicago market during prime time that night. In all other markets, the Republicans purchased this slot on NBC for an address by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on behalf of presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon. Since the Cook County Democrats had already bought this time period, the Republicans had to settle for a tape-delayed broadcast of the Eisenhower speech at 10:15---well after prime-time---following WNBQ's late evening news. Both half-hours are remarkable examples of stagecraft and scripting and of Richard J. Daley's ability to target demographic groups that were essential to the victories of his party.

Both half-hours are remarkable examples of stagecraft and scripting and of Richard J. Daley's ability to target demographic groups that were essential to the victories of his party. Present-day political gurus would do well to study this video.
Vince Garrity
Hosting the broadcast was Vince Garrity (seen on the left). Vincent Depaul Garrity was a life-long loyal Democrat (some might call him a party hack) who served, for time, as a trustee of the Metropolitan Sanitary District (now known as the Water Reclamation District).
Vince was also a Chicago radio personality: in the 1960's he was morning man on WAAF radio. (The NBC announcer is Greg Donovan).

Watch the broadcast:

Part 1 (of 3): The torchlight parade

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30 minutes of the Cook County Democrats pulling out all the stops for a variety of candidates, notwithstanding a steady downpour. Hosted by Vince Garrity. Featured are candidates Sam Shapiro (Lieutenant Governor), William Clark (Attorney General), Jim McLaughlin (Secretary of State), Michael Howlett (Comptroller), Paul Douglas (U.S. Senator), Otto Kerner (Governor), and Dan Ward (Cook County States Attorney)---plus floats, bands, and near chaos as the limo carrying John F. Kennedy passes by.

Here's a log of significant events in this segment:

02:27: Interview with Samuel Shapiro, candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
03:35: Interview with William Clark, candidate for Illinois Attorney General
04:35: Interview with Jim McLaughlin, candidate for Illinois Secretary of State
04:59: Limousine passes carrying Senator John F. Kennedy, Mayor Richard J. Daley and R. Sergeant Shriver.
06:07: Interview with Michael Howlett, candidate for Illinois State Comptroller.
06:41: Interview with U.S. Senator Paul Douglas.
07:14: Interview with Otto Kerner, candidate for governor.
08:42: Interview with Steven Bailey, parade marshal. (Bailey was head of the Pumbers Union which, to this day, organizes Chicago's downtown Saint Patrick's Day parade).
09:00: Interview with Dan Ward, candidate for Cook County States Attorney.
24:55: Interview with Theodore A. Jones. This is perhaps the most interesting of all the interviews.

Ted Jones was an African-American, and his appearance was clearly an effort to make certain Chicago's Black voters made it to the polls on November 8th. Though Jones was introduced simply as a Kennedy "fan", he was one of the most important African American leaders of the Democratic Party in Illinois as well as a civil rights activist. As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois in the 1930's he had both experienced and fought against racial discrimination. Following graduation, he became one of the state's first African American CPA's. During World War II he served as a budget officer for the U.S. Fair Employment Practices Commission. Following the war he was associated with some of the business enterprises of boxer Joe Louis.

The Democrats rewarded Jones for his loyalty. President Kennedy appointed to the Federal Committee on Equal Opportunity in Housing. President Lyndon Baines Johnson named him Great Lakes Regional Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Governor Otto Kerner named him Illinois State Revenue Director in 1966. From 1963 to 1971 he served as a trustee of the University of Illinois.

Jones was later found guilty on two misdemeanor counts for filing false tax returns in 1977.

Jones subsequently became President of the Chicago chapter of the NAACP and served as a trustee of the City Colleges of Chicago. He died in April of 2001 at the age of 88.

Part 2 (of 3): Station break (includeing an Otto Kerner for Governor commercial and a re-elect Paul Douglas spot).

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The message of the Kerner commercial (he advocates a balanced road construction program, not just one based on the contruction of "super highways") is significant: the following day (Saturday, November 5th, 1960), Chicago's Northwest Expressway (later the Kennedy Expressway) would be opened to traffic.

Part 3 (of 3): Senator John F. Kennedy's address.

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Note especially his grand entrance on the floor of the Chicago Stadium (could Bob Deservi ever expecedt to have engineered a similar entrance for his former boss?). The reaction for the candidate is so enthusiastic that it eats up precious minutes of paid-for network time. Indeed, Senator Kennedy's 30 minutes run out as he speaks of the Peace Corps (proposed in a San Francisco speech several days earlier). And NBC, with other programs in its Friday night schedule, pulled the plug on the future POTUS.

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