William Emmett Dever

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from William E. Dever)
Jump to: navigation, search
William Emmett Dever
32nd Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded by William Hale Thompson
Succeeded by William Hale Thompson
Personal details
Born (1862-03-13)March 13, 1862
Woburn, Massachusetts
Died September 3, 1929(1929-09-03) (aged 67)
Chicago, Illinois
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Katherine Conway Dever
Residence Chicago, Illinois

William Emmett Dever (March 13, 1862 – September 3, 1929) served as the mayor of Chicago, Illinois, U.S. from 1923 to 1927 and was a Democrat.


Dever was born in Woburn, Massachusetts and entered his family's leather tanning business when he was fifteen. He left Woburn in 1882 and moved to Boston, where he was based while he traveled on tannery business for two years, during which time he met Kate Conway and they married. When Kate noticed an ad stating that leather tanners could make good money in Chicago, the couple moved west.

Upon arriving in Chicago in 1887, Dever got a job working at a leather tannery on Goose Island and he also began taking law courses at night at the Chicago College of Law. Upon graduation in 1890, he opened his own law practice. He ran for alderman in 1900, but was defeated. Two years later, he was elected alderman of the 17th Ward. In 1910, he was elected to his first term as a judge and was re-elected in 1916 and 1922.

In 1923, Democratic party boss George E. Brennan selected Dever as having the best chance of defeating the incumbent, Mayor William "Big Bill" Thompson. Dever ran on a reform platform and Thompson withdrew from the race in favor of Arthur C. Leuder, who was easily defeated by Dever.[1]

Dever's term in office saw many improvements to the city's infrastructure, including the completion of Wacker Drive, the extension of Ogden Avenue, the straightening of the Chicago River and the building of the city's first airport, Municipal Airport. He also fought against the corrupting influence of bootlegging and gangsters. Despite considering himself a "wet," he enforced prohibition since it was the law of the land. The media labeled his war on bootleggers as the "Great Beer War" and spoke of Dever as a dark horse candidate for President of the United States.

But by 1926, Chicago was in the middle of a gang war. Dever tried to stem the violence and noted that although prohibition was a "tremendous mistake," he had no choice but to enforce it. Because of his resolution to uphold the law, Dever became nicknamed "Decent Dever" by the press.

Dever ran for re-election in 1927 against "Big Bill" Thompson, who defeated him by 83,000 votes.[1] Dever went on to serve as a vice-president of a local bank, but took a leave of absence and died of cancer in 1929. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois.


  1. ^ a b Schmidt, John R. (10-03-2011). "William E. Dever: The Mayor Who Cleaned Up Chicago". Chicago History Today. WBEZ. Retrieved 2012-05-29.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
Preceded by
William Hale Thompson
Mayor of Chicago
Succeeded by
William Hale Thompson