Dan Walker (politician)

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Daniel Walker
Walker greets Chicago constituents during the Bud Billiken Day Parade, 1973. Photo by John H. White.
36th Governor of Illinois
In office
January 8, 1973 – January 10, 1977
Lieutenant Neil Hartigan
Preceded by Richard Ogilvie
Succeeded by James Thompson
Personal details
Born (1922-08-06) August 6, 1922 (age 92)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic Party
Residence Chula Vista, California[citation needed]
Alma mater United States Naval Academy
Northwestern University

Daniel Walker (born August 6, 1922) is a lawyer, businessman, and Democratic politician from Illinois. He was the 36th Governor of Illinois from 1973 to 1977.

Early life and career[edit]

Walker was born in Washington, D.C. and raised near San Diego, California. He was the second Governor of Illinois to graduate from the United States Naval Academy. He served as a naval officer in World War II and the Korean War.[1] A graduate of the Northwestern University School of Law, Walker served as a law clerk for Chief Justice of the United States Fred M. Vinson, and as an aide to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson II.

Walker later became an executive for Montgomery Ward while supporting reform politics in Chicago. In 1970, Walker was campaign chairman for the successful U.S. Senate campaign of Adlai Stevenson III (son of Adlai II).[2]

The National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence appointed Walker to head the Chicago Study Team that investigated the violent clashes between police and protesters at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. In December, the team issued its report, Rights in Conflict, better known as the "Walker Report". The Report became highly controversial, and its author well-known. The report stated that while protesters had deliberately harassed and provoked police, the police had responded with indiscriminate violence against protesters and bystanders, which he described as a "police riot". The Report charged that many police had committed criminal acts, and condemned the failure to prosecute or even discipline those police.[3]

Illinois Governor[edit]

Walker announced his candidacy for Governor of Illinois in 1971 and attracted wide attention by walking 1,197 miles (1,926 km) across Illinois in 1971.[4] He narrowly won the Democratic primary against then-Lieutenant Governor Paul Simon. Though Simon had a "good government" reputation, Walker attacked Simon for soliciting and accepting the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party chaired by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, which Walker charged reflected servility to the "Daley Machine".

In the general election, he defeated incumbent Republican Richard B. Ogilvie by a 51% to 49% margin. At one point in the early 1970s, Walker had presidential aspirations.

The enmity between Walker and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's political organization was deep. In 1974, Walker supported state legislative candidates against Daley allies. Walker's deputy governor, Victor deGrazia, later said: "... I knew from the beginning that every time Daley looked at Walker, he saw the Church of England and the British suppression of the Irish, and when Dan would look at Daley, he would see the quintessential politician who was only interested in political gain."[5]

"We never established anything even approaching a personal rapport. To some degree, this was an obvious and natural result of my independent political activity. But it went deeper - much deeper," said Walker.[citation needed]

During his tenure, Walker was often at odds with both Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature. He did obtain passage of the first law requiring disclosure of campaign contributions and issued a series of executive orders prohibiting corrupt practices by state employees.

In 1976 Walker was defeated in the Democratic primary, losing to Secretary of State Michael Howlett, the candidate supported by Mayor Daley, by a 54% to 46% margin. In the general election, Howlett was overwhelmingly defeated by James R. Thompson.

Post political career and criminal conviction[edit]

In the 1980s, Walker entered the private sector by forming Butler-Walker, Inc, a chain of self-named quick oil change franchises later bought by Jiffy Lube[6] and acquiring two troubled savings and loan associations, one of which was First American Savings and Loan Association of Oak Brook.

In 1987, Walker was charged with Federal bank fraud based on two loans. A private contractor borrowed $279,000 from First American to build schools. Walker later personally borrowed $45,000 from that individual on a "handshake" basis. Those two loans ("borrowing from a borrower" while serving as a director) constituted bank fraud. Walker agreed to a plea bargain with Federal prosecutors; he pled guilty to bank fraud in the loan, perjury (based on dealings by the Association with his son), and filing false financial statements. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment for bank fraud, three years for perjury, and probation for false financial statements; the sentences to be served consecutively.

At his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Ann Williams stated, "It's clear to this court that a pattern was established and that you, Mr. Walker, thought this bank was your own personal piggy bank to bail you out whenever you got into trouble."[7] The U.S. Attorney General ruled that "borrowing from a borrower," which was Walker's main offense, was a violation of the regulations but not a violation of law.[citation needed]

Media at the time reported he received over a million dollars in fraudulent loans for his business and repairs on his yacht Governor's Lady.[7]

However, no charges were laid against Walker for any other loans, and no other loans by First American were described as fraudulent.[8]

After Walker had served eighteen months, Judge Williams ordered him released from prison based on "time served" and placed on probation until the two loans in question were repaid. This order eliminated the two other charges.

First American was declared insolvent and taken over by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation. It continued in business as before, run by individuals brought in by FSLIC. There were no bondholders of First American and Walker and his wife were the only stockholders. When the two loans described above were repaid, Walker was released from probation and the case against him was closed. There was no cost to taxpayers for the loans.[2]

In January 2001 Walker requested a pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton, but his request was not granted.[9]

Walker became the second of four Governors of Illinois in the 20th and 21st Century to be convicted on Federal criminal charges. The others were Otto Kerner, Jr., George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich. However, unlike Kerner, Ryan, and Blagojevich, Walker's crimes were not related to his term as Governor.


Walker was married in 1947 to Roberta Dowse, a Catholic school teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had seven children, three boys—Daniel Jr., Charles, and William—and four girls, Kathleen, Julie, Roberta, and Margaret. They were divorced in 1977. Roberta Dowse-Walker died in December 2006 from colon cancer.[10] Walker later married Roberta Nelson, who was 14 years his junior, and was divorced in 1989 while he was in prison. In 2007 he resided in Escondido, California, with his third wife, Lillian. As of 2007, he resided in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico.[11]


Some ten years after leaving prison, Walker became an author, and he has written three books.

  • The First Hundred Years A.D. 1-100: Failures and Successes of Christianity's Beginning   Authors Choice Press, September 2001. ISBN 0-595-19634-9
  • Thirst for Independence: The San Diego Water Story   Sunbelt Publications, 2004. ISBN 0-932653-62-6

In The Maverick and the Machine, Walker discussed his political career, his experiences in prison, and his business and law troubles. Of the latter, he wrote "I knew this was against regulations, but, like most businessmen, I saw a huge difference between a law and a regulation." After his plea deal was reached in 1987, Walker stated, "I have broken the law and pleaded guilty, I have deep regrets and no excuses."[12]

He has several other writing projects in the works, including A Government Gone Bad, an Historical Account of the Mob and the Machine, focusing on corrupt politicians and outlaws in Illinois.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biography of Illinois Governor Daniel Walker 1973-1974 Illinois Blue Book, page 16.
  2. ^ a b Walker, Daniel. The Maverick and the Machine, Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story Southern Illinois University Press, 2007 ISBN 0-8093-2756-2
  3. ^ Walker Report summary History of the Federal Judiciary: The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial
  4. ^ "Quinn Would Face $2 Billion Budget Gap as Blagojevich Successor". Bloomberg News. 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  5. ^ Oral History Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Victor deGrazia Oral History
  6. ^ "Five last Walker lube centers to Jiffy Lube." Chicago Sun-Times, August 26, 1986.
  7. ^ a b William C. Hidlay. "Former Governor Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison." Associated Press, November 20, 1987.
  8. ^ "Plea Agreement" document issued by the United States District Court (USDC ND Ill)
  9. ^ Mark Brown. "If Rosty gets pardoned, why not Walker?" Chicago Sun-Times, January 17, 2001.
  10. ^ Lori Rackl, Chicago Sun-Times. Obituary, Roberta Dowse Walker 1924-2006.
  11. ^ "The Maverick – Former Illinois governor Dan Walker writes of fall from high office to federal prison". North County Times. May 26, 2007. Archived from the original on December 14, 2008. 
  12. ^ Associated Press (August 6, 1987). "Former Illinois Governor Guilty in Bank Fraud Case". Sentinel (Milwaukee, WI). 
  13. ^ Projects keep former Illinois Governor from S.D. Moving Along. San Diego Union-Tribune, March 6, 2003.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Ogilvie
Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
James Thompson