Saturday, March 21, 2020

March 21, 1969 -- Anti-War Demonstrator Sounds Off

March 21, 1969 – Rennie Davis, the coordinator of the National Mobilization Committee in Chicago, already under indictment for his role in disturbances at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, threatens to bring new protests to the city.  Speaking at a press conference with Lee Weiner, a Northwestern University research assistant also under indictment, Davis says, “I believe the demonstration leaders who were indicted will receive the support to show that the Nixon administration made a serious mistake and will be sorry for it.” [Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1969] Protest will come in the form of an anti-war march on April 5, to coincide with similar marches in a half-dozen other cities.  At the same time Davis is speaking, Superintendent of Police James Conlisk announces the suspensions of four of the eight policemen indicted by a grand jury for their actions during the convention.  Conlisk says he will recommend dismissal of the officers to the police disciplinary board.  Prior to this announcement, only one of the officers had received any disciplinary action.  Captain Raymond Clark, director of the police internal investigations division, says the investigation of the officers was “thorough, but apparently the government has avenues of investigation not open to the police department.”

Virgil E.
March 21, 1963 – The head of the Chicago Transit Authority, Virgil E. Gunlock, dies in Illinois Masonic Hospital at the age of 57 after suffering a heart attack on March 12.  Much of the city’s infrastructure that we take for granted today came about as a result of Gunlock’s leadership in a number of areas. Born on a farm near New Canton in Pike County in 1905, he attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a degree in civil engineering in 1927.  In 1938, when the city began its first subway on State Street, Gunlock was appointed resident engineer on the contract.  During construction he rose to the position of chief subway engineer.  In 1945 he was appointed the Commissioner of Subways and Superhighways just as the city was preparing for a monumental expressway building program.  In 1952 he was named as the city’s Commissioner of Public Works.  Two years later he was appointed to the CTA board.  As head of the CTA Gunlock realized that the system, which had shrunk by nearly 25% by the mid-1950’s, could not survive without some sort of government subsidy, and along with Daley he worked diligently to make politicians and the public realize the importance of that fact.  He also prepared a “wish list” of projects that the mayor lobbied local and state legislators to bring to completion.   This included rapid transit lines in the medians of the planned northwest and south (Kennedy and Ryan) expressways, a "first" in the United States.  A memorial column published in the Chi Zetagram, the newsletter of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at the U. of I., stated, “Had lesser men occupied the key posts held by Mr. Gunlock, many of the city’s most important public works projects would never have advanced as rapidly or as smoothly as they did.  Mr. Gunlock will be remembered as a highly-skilled, good-humored, but no-nonsense engineer-administrator who played a major role in the building of today’s Chicago.” 

March 21, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the remarks of Judge Lorin C. Collins, a respected jurist who served as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as a Chicago Circuit Court Judge before retiring to private practice in 1893.   He speaks of the great opportunity that lies before the city in potential park land along the lake, saying of the land that one day would become Grant Park, “Every one admits that the people have rights there, but so long as we go putting buildings there, which are not ornamental, and filling it up the same as the property west and south, they see no use in maintaining them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1894]   The judge’s proposal, which he says would be trivial in comparison to the building of the World’s Fair of 1893, still is huge in its scope.  He says, “I would propose, as a general plan, to remove all the Illinois Central tracks north of the new depot, which are mainly used for freight purposes, and take away all the unsightly structures north nearly or quite to the river. Condemnation proceedings could be instituted, and I do not think a jury would fix the damages at excessive figures.  Any legislation necessary could be secured at Springfield for such a purpose with comparative ease, and I think the State would willingly cede what rights it now claims in the land in question.  I would pay for this improvement by a general park tax on all the city and the entire cost would not be as great as that of Jackson Park now.  Bonds might be issued allowing future generations to help pay for something of which they would get the benefit … One can hardly estimate the great benefit to the city from having a magnificent park on our Lake-Front.  Not only would it be of incalculable benefit to the residents of the city, but it would be a park such as no other city in the world has, and render us proportionately famous … I would wipe out everything there except the Art Institute and make one grand park of it.”  The above photo, taken in 1893, looks south in the area that would one day become Grant Park. 

March 21, 1867 -- Before a packed Coliseum crowd Professor R. D. Hamilton holds forth, providing instruction in the taming of horses. The venue is so crowded that the doors are ordered closed to prevent any more people from crowding in. At the end of the lecture a grocer, one Mr. Minogue, brings a bay horse "which proved to be a vicious brute" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1867], apparently hoping that the good professor could perform his magic on the beast. Before anything could be accomplished, though, the horse "sprang wildly" into the packed crowd. "A scream of terror rose from every part of the house, and this had the effect of still further maddening the infuriated animal, who struggled and pranced form one circle of seats to another among the thickest of the spectators, till he reached nearly to the roof of the circus." At that point the flooring gave way above a series of lion's cages and horse and spectators disappeared.. Predictably, someone cried, "The lions are loose," and terror reigned. "There were a few women among the audience, and, of course, they all fainted . . . what became of the horse no one knew for a while; but it appears he had succeeded in chasing the buffalo loose . . ." Before long the doors were opened, and the members of the audience were free. Soon after that Professor Hamilton sought out the "irrepressible horse" and "in a brief space of time the wild horse was as tame and peaceful as a lamb." All in a day's work in pre-fire Chicago.

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