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A tribute to Milton Rakove

Milton Rakove died on November 5, 1983. For many years he had written a column on Chicago politics for this magazine. He was a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, Chicago Center and other Chicago universities and colleges. He was also a student of Chicago politics and wrote extensively on the subject. His writing was analytical, but with a wry touch of humor.

To honor this true gentleman we have asked seven colleagues and friends to join us in a tribute to Milt Rakove. Their contributions follow. We obviously could have asked many others in and out of Chicago and Illinois politics. Milt had a wide range of admirers.

For my own part, I considered Milt Rakove a valued friend and colleague. I enjoyed our many visits. I remember fondly his tour and dinner in the 25th Ward, a ward he knew like a much-loved book. He knew the rest of the city equally well.

In addition to our common association with Illinois Issues, he had participated in the program of our Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois and had contributed an insightful chapter to After Daley, edited by Louis Masotti and myself. Through the years we had participated together in many conferences; he always drew a big audience and never failed to make everyone laugh even as he forced them to ponder the peculiarities of the political scene he was describing.

Milt Rakove was a class act. My colleagues and I benefited greatly from knowing this wonderful and kind man.

Samuel K. Gove, chair
Illinois Issues Board

Colleague and friend


MILTON RAKOVE was my faculty colleague and friend for many years a an "urban" university. To some that term implies an impersonal approach to education. Milt's personality and enthusiasm shattered that stereotype.

His classes were always packed, and the response of students over more than 25 years was phenomenal. They recognized Milt's great warmth, wit and integrity. They selected him for every possible teaching award. Many of them — along with scholars and politicians — devoured his books on Chicago politics, particularly the 1975 classic, Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers.

The qualities that attracted students enabled Milt to engage in research and public service in a way that was foreign to 99 percent of academics. By force of personality he gathered "data" from sources that seemed unavailable to others.

Milt was "street wise" in a manner that made ward committeemen, waitresses and policemen pour out their hearts to him on city problems. I never heard of him breaking a confidence. He was sometimes labeled as the Chicago machine's "intellectual in resdence," but often he wrote analyses not flattering to elements of the Democratic party organization.

Granted, I am biased. But I believe he understood politics in his special arena more clearly than any other observer of America's urban scene. Within Chicago politics he was partialularly viewed as unparalleled in his knowledge of ward politics.

Milt often persuaded top figures in Chicago politics to speak before his classes. He also performed a variety of public services for the broader academic community, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois in a way known to very few.

He loved to bring together representatives of these various sectors. Doing so was a talent at which Milt was unsurpassed. He felt that politicians from the suburbs and "downstate" could do better at their jobs if they became acquainted with Chicago figures. He also

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thought both politicians and educators were better equipped to perform their respective tasks if they knew and respected one another.

With all of his activities across institutional and social boundaries, Milt never compromised his university. Last April he became the first recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Service at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Like many others, my own intellectual debt to him is immense. It continued to grow until the very end. My most poignant "lesson" came on a recent election day when he invited me to accompany him on what was to be his last visit to the 25th Ward, a west side area in which he had been born.

Though his strength was ebbing and he knew the end was near, Milt was still fascinated by the ward. He was writing a new analysis of its changing character and its colorful Democratic committeeman and alderman, Vito Marzullo.

First we had lunch at an Italian restaurant near the Democratic ward headquarters. Sure enough, the waitress and several diners asked Milt about Chicago politics and offered their own stories. Next, we moved on to several precinct polling places, including a black storefront church on Roosevelt Road, where Milt was welcomed by workers. Then we stopped at the headquarters where Milt visited with Marzullo's lieutenants. They asked about his books, and there followed an unusual seminar on urban politics.

The alderman had left word for Milt to stop by his home for their usual election-day chat. At Marzullo's home the alderman greeted us warmly. For an hour the dean of the Chicago City Council, now past 85, reviewed recent happenings in the ward. Formerly a precinct captain, ward superintendent and state representative, Marzullo spoke of the changing diversity in the area since Milt had grown up there. Milt told us that the area was a Jewish ghetto when his parents, Russian immigrants, brought him there nearly 60 years ago. Marzullo reviewed his own childhood in Italy. There was tea and then quiet farewells. Milt turned away one last time from the old Italian gentleman about whom he had written so much. As we walked from the home, Milt confided: "I have a warm relationship of mutual respect and trust with Alderman Marzullo."

Milton Rakove in the 25th Ward, the neighborhood of his boyhood.
Photo by Scott Sanders, Daily Herald

Many of us in Illinois and beyond will sorely miss Milton Rakove's respect, trust . . . and love.
Boyd Keenan is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The man who listened to Chicago

CHICAGO has many experts, most of whom, in a fashion dear to the city, speak at the same time, often to cross purposes, frequently with magnificently garbled information. If we have many commentators, we have few Eric Sevareids, and, in any case, the latter's style, wonderful for commenting on diplomats in striped pants, would hardly fit aldermen in double knits. We did have, however, a man who did not talk all the time, a level-headed scholar who understood how to watch and listen. We were blessed with Milton Rakove who understood Chicago wisely because he attended to it carefully. Common sense has been thrown irretrievably out of balance by his death. Some of those who eulogized Milton spoke of him as if he had been a rough diamond that had been slowly polished through the years. That was not the gentle, perceptive Milton Rakove whom I knew. He was a sensitive person with street smarts, a scholar who understood that research could be done in the precincts as well as in the library, an extraordinary man whose commitment to listening to the city yielded a rich and unique record of Chicago's politicians and their ways. What made Milton Rakove such an accurate recorder and interpreter of Chicago was his lack of narcissism, that fatal flaw in the characters of so many of those who write and comment about Chicago.

Because his ego did not get in the way, he was able to see more clearly and judge more accurately the men and events than those whose absorption with themselves distorted their observations of the world around them. Milton Rakove, in many ways, was like a wonderful boy who was never corrupted by his adventures in the dark warrens of Chicago politics, a man whose fundamental goodness survived the wicked city's efforts to disillusion or discourage him.

I am grateful to Milton Rakove because he was such a careful, thorough scholar who left a body of work whose value and importance to political scientists will increase as the years go by. But I am more grateful for having had such a good friend with whom to journey through Chicago in search of understanding. I cherish greatly my central recollection of him: He loved his family and, with the enthusiasm of a young man who had just fallen in love, he was devoted to his wife Shirley, his great companion, about whom he always spoke with tenderness and affection impossible to fake.

Milton Rakove has left us treasures of achievement and memory. Chicago politics will miss him as much as the great city itself for it will not find anyone else half so gentle, half so attentive, or half so understanding of its realities.

Eugene Kennedy is professor of psychology at Loyola University, Chicago.

April 1984/Illinois Issues/7

Milton Rakove with Alderman Vito Marzullo with whom he had a "warm relationship
of mutual respect and trust."

Master teacher


ALTHOUGH widely known for his books on Chicago politics, Milton Rakove was beyond all else an outstanding teacher. Having grown up in an ethnic neighborhood, he had a special affinity with many of the Chicago students he taught at Navy Pier, at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle and at many private colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Milt taught without notes and punctuated his talks with stories, anecdotes and jokes which not only entertained his audience but helped the politics of Chicago and foreign countries to come alive for students. Because of his interest in actual politics, not abstract "political behavior," he was able to help students learn about the real world of politics. Because of his training at the University of Chicago, he was able to bring the political theories of Machiavelli and Morgenthau to provide an intellectual framework for understanding what would have otherwise been fragmented political realities.

Milton Rakove was not dogmatic. While he was not afraid of debate and he had his own strong point of view, he tried to learn from politicians and political scientists. When he favored the policies of Mayor Richard J. Daley and I led the anti-Daley bloc in the Chicago City Council, we were able to use our debates to present to our students in team-taught courses a range of possible futures for Chicago. And we brought to our class and debates many of the major political figures of the city for over a decade and forced them to face the questions of the city's future publicly.

Milt not only taught university classes but lectured before hundreds of civic groups, made frequent guest appearances on radio and television programs and wrote a stream of newspaper and magazine articles on Chicago. He also prepared essays for the city's and the county's "home rule reports," and many of his reforms are now being adopted. For the public and public officials, as well as his university classes, he translated the seeming chaos of Chicago politics and government into an understandable and meaningful process.

Milton Rakove taught and wrote in the hope of helping to further a realistic democracy. He recognized that machine politics was not the highest possible form of politics, and he recorded its faults as well as its virtues. He was critical of many public officials, especially the Byrne administration. But he saw the good aspects of even machine politics. He expected to see the machine be used by the new minorities, blacks and Hispanics, as a path to dignity and power as other ethnic groups had before them, He, like Edmund Burke, wanted to conserve what was good about the city he loved and to improve and correct its faults. That was what he tried to teach his students and the public as well.
Dick Simpson is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.

'The man who came to dinner'


MILTON Rakove called himself "the man who came to dinner." He first came to Barat College in 1960 to give a lecture under the auspices of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. The informality of the lounge setting and the students' lively comments and questions so interested him that he offered to come and teach a course at Barat. That January he began a 17-year lectureship in the Political Science Department that will never be forgotten by the students who enrolled in his classes.

There was Milton Rakove the teacher. He brought to the classroom an understanding of street-level politics and a scholarly background in political theory. As a teacher he was stimulating, creating excitement, initiating discussions that were continued by his students in lounges, the dining room, the dormitories. Newspapers, periodicals, books were avidly read, in turn sparking the participation and give-and-take in his classroom. He listened to opposing opinions and took them seriously, a fact that would have surprised some parents, distressed that their conservative Republican daughters were becoming liberal Democrats. Then there were the guests that he brought to the campus, so respected and popular that all-college lectures had to be scheduled to accommodate all who wanted to share the experience. Hans Morgenthau was far and away the star, a frequent lecturer at Barat, thanks to Milt. (One of his classes gave Milt a dog named Hans.) There were class visits with Chicago political figures and to ethnic neighborhoods and their political leaders, a practical experience in urban politics.

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There was Milton Rakove the man, the friend. Hundreds of Barat students would testify to his warmth, his understanding, his integrity, the richness of his friendship. His home was like home to countless Barat students and in his trips abroad he found homes away from home in Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, France and Ireland with former Barat students. Shirley was sister-mother to them, a provider of brownies and cookies, interest and affections. Their children Roberta and Jack were sister and brother to the students. Milton Rakove the teacher was perhaps epitomized by the large antique corner mail box that stood in the entry hall of his home, filled to the brim with letters and cards received from Barat students during his illness, a testament to a much loved and deeply respected teacher.

Sister Margaret Burke of St. Louis is president emeritus of Barat College in Lake Forest.

The political scribe of Chicago


MILTON RAKOVE was as unique as the titles of his books — Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers and We Don't Want Nobody, Nobody Sent. His death leaves a large void for those of us who counted him among our close friends. First and foremost, Milt was a kind and gracious human being who gave unstintingly of his time and energy to fellow academics, students, politicians and the press. His love of Chicago and the excitement of its politics was reflected in his books, columns (including those in this magazine), class lectures and speeches. No one, among the many who tried, captured the essence of Chicago politics as well as Milt.

He wrote and spoke with knowledge, insight and wit about the interesting and important aspects of the policies and processes which made Chicago politics a national phenomenon as well as a local pastime.

He was analytic without being pedantic; his prose was almost — but not quite - as colorful as his speech. Milt did for Vito Marzullo and other Chicago personalities what Damon Runyon did for Nathan Detroit and his cronies.

He understood the rich character of Chicago politics and — thankfully — shared his perceptions with us in writing. Those words will endure as a socio-political history of Chicago from the '50s through the '70s and into the traumatic transition of the '80s.

It is ironic that Milt Rakove died in the same year that the political machine which he chronicled appears to have succumbed to the forces of political change. Let us hope that the example which he set as a perceptive political scribe and analyst will encourage others as sage and energetic to follow in his footsteps and explain and document the new Chicago politics.

Louis H. Masotti is professor of management and urban affairs at Northwestern University, Evanston.

Milton Rakove with Tom Roeser, vice president-government relations for
The Quaker Oats Company, and Tom Hynes, Cook County assessor.

A role model and booster of young people


MILTON RAKOVE was very special to me. He was more than a good friend, a trusted adviser and constructive critic. His academic and public career was a role model for my own life and work.

Milt proved that professors could write about politics without being stuffy. His writings illustrated the drama and color of politics without short-changing the reader on content or analysis. By making his subject come alive, Milt appealed to a wide audience, many of whom were not traditional readers of political science.

It must be remembered that before Milt most authors on Chicago politics were of two general types. First, you had the former pols who wrote semiofficial biographies or reminiscences about their life and times. Second, you had the journalists who expounded newspaper type political coverage into full-length books. To be sure, some academics made stabs at analyzing city politics and government, but most of their works, no matter how well done, were read by a limited few.

Milt's Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers broke new ground. It opened a whole field to younger professors who like Milt enjoyed politics, were comfortable with politicians and, in fact, did not mind dabbing in the noble art a little bit themselves.

Milt loved to talk as well as write about politics. All of us are going to miss those Rakove lectures and informal conversations that started with phrases like "Back in the good old days . . ." or ' 'When I was growing up . . ."or best of all, "You should have known. ..." He was a storyteller. There have been few individuals who could gather a big crowd around them quicker than Milt Rakove. The warmth of those speeches and friendly chats spilled over into his writings, and that was perhaps his greatest gift and strength as an author.

Finally, one must speak of his intellectual generosity with his colleagues and students. Milt shared ideas and analysis. When he adopted a theme or concept from somebody else, he immediately gave that person recognition and often sent a word of thanks. In a

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profession (academia) whose politics have been termed brutal because the stakes are so small, Milt Rakove stood above the petty squabbles and professional jealousies. He was a booster of young people and young ideas and to coin a "Rakovese" expression, he did not support the notion that "You don't make anyone who can unmake you." I and countless others mourn our collective loss.

Paul M. Green is director of the Institute for Public Policy and Administration at Governors State University, Park Forest South.

A Chicago treasure


MILT RAKOVE touched our lives in so many ways. We all have a sense of loss, and we feel that loss at different levels. The closer you were to Milt in his life, the deeper your sorrow in his absence. Acquaintances felt that Milt was a person worth knowing. His family and close friends (who have lost the most) have been blest in sharing his ability to communicate himself.

Fortunately, his insightful observations have had a wide and appreciative audience — not only wide but amazingly eclectic. In a city of fierce political rivalries he was welcome not only with Democrats and Republicans but with all shades of the political spectrum. People respected the man and respected his judgment.

Through almost 30 years as a professor at Navy Pier, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Barat College and Loyola University, he spelled out his perspective to thousands of students. Many are now in public office. Many more refer to him as one of the great teachers in their lives.

His writings, at first tentative and hesitant, later grew to be a flood. His first book (written with so many doubts) has become the classic description of Chicago's political system. In the final year of his life with the growing burden of illness, he produced over a dozen commentaries.

Milt Rakove has been a Chicago treasure. My hope is that in the near future his professional colleagues will fashion an appropriate tribute recognizing his contribution to our education.

Admired and respected by so many, he was loved in a special way by his family and close friends. Why did we love him and seek out his company? Milt was a listener as well as a teacher. He wanted to hear what you thought, and no matter what your role in the world about him, he respected you as a person. He was sincerely interested in your views (even to the point of recording them). He valued so highly people confiding in him, expressing their feelings and opinions.

One of his most moving statements to me was his observation that his last illness brought him a special blessing. He was so touched that his friends and particularly his immediate family took his illness as an occasion to express their love and affection, an expression that in times of good health, he felt, might never have been fully articulated.

In the matter of love and friendship, Milt Rakove was the most blest of human beings because he gave of himself.

Another thing he mentioned near the end of his life: "You know, I believe in God, but I don't have a clue about eternity." Notice the candor of the man, his willingness to share himself, his desire to communicate.

Milt Rakove was a just man seeking the justice and equity of his nature, and he raged against injustice (never in his writings, but in private). His creator, a just God, will satisfy that search for justice and equity for all eternity.

Father Joseph Small is a professor of political science at Loyola University of Chicago.

10/April 1984/Illinois Issues

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