Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights

Overview

This first biography of Otto Kerner traces the career of a major figure in Illinois politics and examines his precipitous descent from public hero to convicted felon.

As Cook County judge, Kerner reformed Illinois adoption procedure; as a two-term Democratic governor, he promoted economic development, education, mental health services, and equal access to jobs and housing; as a federal appeals court judge, he bucked the law-and-order tide of the late 1960s and protected the ...

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Overview

This first biography of Otto Kerner traces the career of a major figure in Illinois politics and examines his precipitous descent from public hero to convicted felon.

As Cook County judge, Kerner reformed Illinois adoption procedure; as a two-term Democratic governor, he promoted economic development, education, mental health services, and equal access to jobs and housing; as a federal appeals court judge, he bucked the law-and-order tide of the late 1960s and protected the rights of the accused. His entire public career reflected his experiences as a decorated combat officer in World War II.

Kerner achieved fame as chair of the National Commission on Civil Disorders (the Kerner Commission), which remains a milestone in America's struggle for racial harmony. An eloquent prophet of the grave consequences of racism in America's cities, Kerner articulated the commission's principal finding that "our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white--separate and unequal."

Kerner's achievements, however, were eclipsed by his conviction on federal charges of mail fraud, bribery, perjury, and income tax evasion tied to his dealings in stock of an Illinois racetrack enterprise. Arguing that Kerner's incarceration related less to his misdeeds than to the zeal of federal investigators in attacking corruption in Illinois, Bill Barnhart and Gene Schlickman reveal how the prosecution of the popular ex-governor deepened the penetration of the federal government into state and local politics and coarsened attitudes toward public service.

This broad-based study sets Kerner's life against a backdrop of pivotal events and issues in American politics over six decades. An absorbing biography of a prominent and arguably tragic public figure, Kerner presents a cautionary tale about the strengths and weaknesses of the American political character and the capriciousness of political acclaim and denigration.

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Editorial Reviews

Jane Manners
...Kerner is both a convincing defense of a maligned public figure and an illuminating tale of the messy, often haphazard workings of U.S. politics.
Brill's Content
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252025044
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: A Time Traveler 1
1. Schweiks No More 11
2. These Malicious Charges 29
3. This Job Is Much Better 44
4. The Welfare of the Child 68
5. The Shame of It 98
6. The Ultimate Decision 135
7. The Giant Ring 157
8. The Sadness of Our Time 189
9. Law and Order 220
10. To "CRIMP" Is to Hinder 246
11. Intangible Rights 287
12. Unfinished Work 320
Appendix Interviews 341
Notes 349
Bibliography 375
Index 391
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