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Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story

By Dan Walker

Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois, 2007, 338 pages. Available on

Reviewed by Dennis Moore

April 25, 2010 (San Diego) -- While sitting on the balcony of Dan Walker’s home overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Baja California a few years ago, the former Governor of Illinois asked me a question that would later give me insight into him and his book about Illinois and Chicago politics, The Maverick And The Machine. The book was winner of the "memoirs" category in the San Diego Book Awards in 2008.

Having dinner that Walker’s wife had prepared in this picturesque setting, we discussed Chicago politics, since we both had been precinct captains in Chicago. He asked me how many jobs I controlled as a precinct captain, to which I responded, “None.” I guess it was a way of him measuring me up to learn just how involved I might have been in Chicago's machine politics. This question from Walker speaks volumes about his book. I am actually pictured here with a Tom Scolin, a contractor that I had purchased an emergency vehicle for O;Hare International Airport at around $300,000.00, which one might say is evidence of my political influence.

We took pictures together as we swapped political war stories about Chicago.  Walker autographed his book and wrote, “To Dennis Moore – good luck to a gutsy and remarkable guy – With kind regards, Governor Dan Walker.” Although he had long since left office as Governor of Illinois, he clearly relished treasured memories of his once lofty position. I gave him a draft of the first chapter of my book, The City That Works, Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. Perhaps, that is why he referred to me as “gutsy.” I guess it is “gutsy” to challenge the status quo—a trait Walker clearly possesses.

Walker’s book tells the dramatic rags-to-riches story of his own rise from dirt-poor beginnings to become a successful trial lawyer, business executive, and governor of Illinois and then to the fall that sent him to prison. It reveals a man blinded by ambition and also probes the inner sanctum of the governorship, in a way that might help to explain how another former Governor, Rod Blagojevich could now be faced with an indictment and impending trial for attempting to sell President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

The Maverick and the Machine is a story of triumph over tragedy. The book is mostly about Walker’s battles and challenges with the first Mayor Daley, Richard J. Daley. (My book, by contrast, focuses mainly on the second Mayor Daley, Richard M. Daley.) The parallels have an element of Greek tragedy.

Walker takes pride in recalling marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., taking on the mob in Chicago, and while in prison, helping other inmates understanding their legal rights. He mused from his prison cell; “As I finally close my eyes and find badly needed sleep, I think back to my involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – a man who would have abhorred the violence as much as I did – when I marched with him through racist crowds in Chicago.”

You will also read of the remarkable feat of this man walking 1,971 miles, from the southernmost part of Illinois, to the northernmost part of the State, in his campaign for governor. Photos in the book also show then-Governor Dan Walker greeting President Gerald Ford on his arrival in Illinois for a visit, as well as meeting Emperor Hirohito of Japan at O’Hare International Airport on an official visit to the United States.

Walker has been described by many as a reformer who was always colorful, provocative, and controversial, becoming a political maverick and winning two tough elections to become Governor. Once at the pinnacle of power in Illinois as its chief executive, Walker would later find himself behind the bars of a federal prison after his conviction on charges of bank fraud. This is nothing new in the State of Illinois, as governors preceded him in this ignominious fate, and more governors followed him, with former Governor Blagojevich predicted to be the next one.

Walker gives his insights into investigations of Governor Blagojevich’s administration and the criminal trial of former Governor Ryan. He offers his assessment of the continuing culture of corruption in Chicago and Illinois government, maintaining that the “pay to play” system has not changed. He even weighs in on ties by the current President, Barack Obama,to what he considers a corrupt political machine in Chicago.

Interestingly, the local Chicago newspapers have made fun of the numerous politicians going to prison by characterizing them as the "Aldermanic Hall of Shame" pictured here.

Walker describes a particularly poignant moment in his book, when upon entry to prison he is strip-searched upon his entry into prison, which he describes as being deliberately dehumanized. He also writes in vivid detail of another inmate in his prison cell being sodomized by other inmates. This is quite a contrast to his being a naval officer in World War II and the Korean War, working in Chicago as a trial lawyer, and arguing cases before the Supreme Court. This book will have you wondering how anyone could fall so far from grace.

A lot of what this author has written about in The Maverick And The Machine, I lived through as a former specification engineer for the City of Chicago Department of Aviation at O’Hare International Airport, attending former and recently indicted Governor Blagojevich’s first inauguration, and being expected and directed to steer contracts in the Daley administration. This is truly an enlightening book on how politics in Illinois and Chicago works, and Walker is masterful at revealing it to us. He bares his soul in this book! Governor Walker and I compared notes as to our time and involvement in Chicago City politics, with my having received a writeup in an Oshkosh Truck Company magazine, pictured here and here.

This book can best be summed up by the coauthor of another book with Walker, Taylor Pensoneau. He states in Dan Walker: The Glory and the Tragedy: “I’ve known other Illinois governors during the past fifty years, and none of them has written anything as self-revealing as The Maverick and the Machine. Former governor Walker bares his soul, extolling his virtues and confessing his weaknesses while laying out in vivid detail stages of his life with little parallel.”

Having sat down and talked with Walker, comparing notes from our respective political involvement in Chicago, I wholeheartedly agree. This is an amazing story, and Dan Walker is an even more amazing man for telling it as he has. I strongly recommend this book to all those interested in politics and the human tragedy.

We became colleagues while both writing for the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. But it was this book, The Maverick and the Machine, that gave me a greater insight into this remarkable man and his story of politics and “pay to play” in our hometown of Chicago.

Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild. He has written for LifeAfter50 Magazine in Pasadena, California and the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He has also written a yet to be published book about Chicago Politics, The City That Works, Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. He is the President of his Church’s Prison Ministry at Bethel A.M.E. in San Diego. Mr. Moore can be contacted at or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.


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Dan Walker, former Illinois Governor, dead at 92

Dan Walker, former Illinois Governor, died in his Chula Vista, California home at the age of 92. I recall fondly having dinner with him at his condo on the Pacific Ocean in Baja California (Mexico) several years ago, and discussing Chicago politics. I recall him questioning me as to how many jobs I controlled as a Precinct Captain in the 37th Ward in the Daley Administration. I viewed that as odd, as I didn't feel that I was that entrenched or politically connected in patronage politics. He had since invited over to dinner at his Chula Vista home, which I welcomed, but I had moved quite a bit away from the area. He was a very interesting man.

Blagojevich Sentenced to 14 Years

Just as former Illinois Governor Dan Walker was sentenced to prison, as he pleaded guilty to bank fraud, misapplication of funds and perjury in 1987, former Illinois Gorner Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison, with  the judge in the case giving little weight to Blagojevich's first-ever apology since his arrest three years ago. 

Gov Walker

I served as a page in the Illinois State Senate during the summers of 1974 and 1975 at the hight of the Walker admninistrations fight with the Chicago machine. It was quite an education.
I recently purchased Gov. Walkers book and stayed up all night until I finished it.
I was greatly upset reading about the hardships the governor endured after leaving office. It is my sincere hope he has found peace and happyness in his later years.

Gary Sides
Charlotte, NC

"Rahm Emanuel becomes Mayor of Chicago"

Former Illinois Governor Dan Walker indicated to me today that Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's former Chief of Staff, becoming Mayor of Chicago, was the better of the candidates in the race, and that he had a lot of issues to deal with in "The City That Works," namely the budget crisis and mending fences with the Afican-American community.



Excellent review, Dennis,

I think your review rather eloquently describes a man driven by ambition who did a lot of good, but made some bad choices. Your review seems to indicate he got caught up in a culture of corruption which is still present. Maybe politics is a game, and he who plays it best last the longest. However, the longer you play the greater your chance of getting caught up because of ambition.

Your review gives an inside view of a-rags-to riches story of a politician who probably bumped heads with the establishment.
Curtis Mitchell

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

In the ongoing criminal trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, accused of attempting to sell President Obama's vacant Senate seat, there seems to be new revelations each day.

"Giannoulias subpoenaed by Blagojevich lawyers"

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias said Sunday he was subpoenaed by Rod Blagojevich's attorneys to appear at the ex-governor's corruption trial, joining a long list of state and national politicians who might testify.

Giannoulias, the single-term state treasurer, was not close to Blagojevich. But Giannoulias said he did act as an intermediary between two people who have played significant roles in the former governor's trial - labor leader Tom Balanoff and White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

"Giannoulias subpoenaed by Blagojevich lawyers"

Testimony at the former governor's trial last week focused on an alleged November 2008 scheme by Blagojevich to trade an appointment of Jarrett, a longtime Obama family friend, to the Senate for a position with the incoming Obama administration.

Balanoff, head of the powerful Service Employees International Union in Illinois, was involved in those talks, according to secret recordings played at trial.

Giannoulias, who knew Jarrett through his friendship with Obama, said on Sunday he got a call from Balanoff around Election day 2008 asking for the introduction.

"Giannoulias subpoenaed by Blagojevich lawyers"

Giannoulias set up the meeting within the next week, and Balanoff and Jarrett met at the offices of Ariel Capital Management, run by another close Obama friend, John Rogers.

Giannoulias attended the meeting but said he didn't really participate in it. Balanoff was asking Jarrett about her interest in being appointed senator, Giannoulias said.

"I knew (Balanoff) through political circles and he called me wanting to meet Valerie," Giannoulias said on Sunday. "Outside of putting them together, I had minimal involvement."

Giannoulias name also popped up in federal wiretaps played at trial last week between Blagojevich and his then Chief of Staff, John Harris.

Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel

With the ongoing criminal trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, it makes one wonder, if Blagojevich had not have become Governor would Rahm Emanuel had become President Obama's Chief of Staff?

Opening remarks in Blagojevich criminal trial

While the opening remarks in the criminal trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be made on Tuesday in one Chicago federal courtroom, in the very same building, another trial will be going on involving allegations of torture by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. This is truly "The City That Works."

The Trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

With the trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich starting today, it makes me wonder if convicted vote fraud felon Dominic Longo had been stopped in his tracks when he was campaigning for Rod Blagojevich, while he was Airport Manager at O'Hare, would we even be having a trial alleging that Rod Blagojevich had attempted to sell President Obama's vacated Senate seat. When Chicago NewCity news magazine did that scathing story and report on Longo's attempt to usurp the duties and responsibilities of the Specification Engineer for the City of Chicago Department of Aviation at O'Hare International Airport, which contributed to Blagojevich becoming Governor and Rahm Emanuel becoming the President's Chief of Staff, that should have alerted someone that there was something terribly wrong in Illinois politics. Blagojevich is just the symptom and product of a bigger problem.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

As former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, along with his brother, is scheduled to go to trial for attempting to sell President Obama's former Senate seat, it should be interesting to see what other revelations come out of that federal trial next month in Chicago.

Former co-worker's comments on The Maverick and the Machine

A friend of mine, and former co-worker in the Purchasing Department at City Hall in Chicago, commented on my book review, by stating; "Good article about the ex-governor," and "Chicago is really going to the trash can." She further stated; "I read in the paper this morning that the City now can no longer fund its pension funds. This mayor tried for years to use the money but the board refused.. Guess he finally got his hands on it without us knowing."

Book Review Clarification

A book review is just that, a book review! It is another person's assessment of the book. Sure, the author might not agree with the viewpoint of the book reviewer, but it should be appreciated. I feel a need to clarify a couple of points in my book review. First of all, I have the utmost respect and admiration for Dan Walker, for being that dirt poor kid from Encanto, which is very close to La Mesa, becoming Governor of Illinois. He enlisted in the Navy as an apprentice seaman, from those humble beginnings in Southern California.

Dan feels sorry that one paragraph in my book review seems to link him "to those other guys who misused the office of governor." That was not my intent! Clearly, Dan does not even want a loose association or comparison with the likes of Blagojevich, Ryan, or Kerner. That was how Dan interpreted it, but it was not my intent. It should be understood that in the State of Illinois, and specifically Chicago, there is a perception of corruption on the part of their politicians, and it seems to be expected.

"Blind Ambition," I have had it, and it was not metioned in regard to Dan Walker, to be derisive. When I was a Precinct Captain in Chicago, spending a lot of time away from my family, my wife at the time would say to me that I put my Precinct Captain duties before her and our family. Sure, I thought that my duties and responsibilities as a Precinct Captain could lead to bigger and better things for me, and consequently, for my family, but my wife didn't see it that way. That may have been Blind Ambition on my part. I am sure that Dan would agree also, that there were things that he did in moving up the political ladder, that could be viewed as Blind Ambition. It was not intended to be derisive, just an honest assessment of what he protrayed in his book.

Nobody wants to be linked with former Illinois Governer Blagojevich nowadays, and it is natural for Dan Walker to think that being linked to Blagojevich in any context is unwarranted. He has a point, but that was not my intent. It was a book review, nothing more, nothing less.

Now, a minor point of clarification, Dan walked 1,197 miles in his campaign for Governor, not 1,971.

Dan Walker's appreciation of my words!

After offering a clarification, Dan Walker has indicated that he appreciates my words. He has also indicated that if anyone is interested in contacting him for elaboration of points made, or further clarification, they can contact him at