Dan Walker (politician)

Dan Walker

Walker greeting constituents during the Bud Billiken 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
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Died April 29, 2015(2015-04-29) (aged 92)
Chula Vista, California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Roberta Dowse (1947–1977)
Roberta Nelson (1979–1989)
Lillian Stewart (1990s–2015)[1][2]
Alma mater United States Naval Academy
Northwestern University
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Navy
Years of service 1940–1941
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War

Daniel J. Walker (August 6, 1922 – April 29, 2015) was an American lawyer, businessman and Democratic politician from Illinois. He was the 36th Governor of Illinois from 1973 to 1977. He was raised in San Diego and served in the Navy as an enlisted and an officer during World War II and the Korean War. He moved to Illinois between the wars to attend Northwestern University School of Law and entered politics there in the 1960s.

Walker was perhaps best known for walking the state of Illinois in 1971 during his candidacy for governor and for being an outsider to Illinois machine politics. This resistance to the machine ended in a rare primary election defeat as an incumbent governor in 1976. His post political career was marked by high living, but marred by a guilty plea to bank fraud and perjury at the peak of the late 1980s savings and loan crisis.[3] After a year and a half in federal prison, Walker retired to the San Diego metro area and authored several books until his death in 2015.

Early life and career

Walker was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Virginia May (Lynch) and Lewis Wesley Walker, who were both from Texas.[4] He was raised near San Diego, California and was valedictorian when he graduated High School there in 1940.[5] He joined the Naval Reserve while still in high school, serving on a four pipe destroyer during the summers. His college plans at San Diego State College were interrupted when he was called to active duty in 1940 and served as an enlisted man on a minesweeper out of Point Loma, San Diego.[6] In 1941 he took an exam to become an officer ranking fifth out of over three thousand that were tested. He was attending the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Norfolk when Pearl Harbor was attacked.[6] He graduated the United States Naval Academy in 1945[7][8] and would later be the second governor of Illinois to graduate from Annapolis. After that he served as a naval officer near the end of World War II. He was recalled to the Navy during the Korean War and was communications officer on USS Kidd (DD-661).[4][9] Walker moved to Illinois to attend Northwestern in 1947. A 1950[8] 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).[1]

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.[10] 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.[11]

Illinois Governor

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.[12] He narrowly won the 1972 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 1972 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."[13]

"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.[14]

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,[15] the candidate supported by Mayor Daley, by a 54% to 46% margin. In the general election, Howlett was overwhelmingly defeated by James R. Thompson. A Democrat would not preside over the governorship of the state for the next 26 years, when Rod Blagojevich was elected in 2003.

Post political career and criminal conviction

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[16] and acquiring two savings and loan associations, one of which was First American Savings and Loan Association of Oak Brook which would later be declared insolvent.

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 pleaded 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."[17][18] 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.

In 1987, news media reported Walker received over a million dollars in fraudulent loans for his business and repairs on his yacht Governor's Lady.[17][18] As part of a plea agreement no charges were laid against Walker for any other loans, and no other loans by First American were described as fraudulent.[19]

Walker served eighteen months of his seven-year sentence and was released in 1989 after his attorneys cited his failing health.[2] 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.

During the mid-1980s Savings and loan crisis, First American was declared insolvent and taken over by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC). 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 his specific loans,[1] but in 1989, First American and another Chicago area S&L were bailed out by tax payers for just under $80 million. First American had $22.2 million in negative equity at that point.[20][21]

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.

Later life and death

After his release from prison in 1989, Walker moved to San Diego. He found work at St. Vincent De Paul and then as a paralegal.[5] Walker also began writing. In 2003, it was reported that he was writing for six hours a day and had several writing projects in the works, including a cookbook for couples[5] and A Government Gone Bad, an Historical Account of the Mob and the Machine, focusing on corrupt politicians and outlaws in Illinois. By 2007, he had written several books[5] and published at least three.

In January 2001, Walker requested a pardon from outgoing President Bill Clinton, but his request was not granted.[22]

In 2007, he published The Maverick and the Machine, in which he 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."[23]

Walker died on April 29, 2015 at a veterans hospital in Chula Vista, California from heart failure, aged 92.[2][24]


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 after 30 years of marriage. Roberta Dowse-Walker, the former First Lady of Illinois, died in December 2006 from colon cancer.[25] 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 Stewart. As of 2007, he resided in Rosarito Beach, Baja California, Mexico.[26]


See also


  1. 1 2 3 Walker, Daniel. The Maverick and the Machine, Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story Southern Illinois University Press, 2007 ISBN 0-8093-2756-2
  2. 1 2 3 Pearson, Rick; Secter, Bob (April 29, 2015). "Former Gov. Dan Walker, colorful populist, dies at 92". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  3. The Associated Press (2015-04-29). "Dan Walker, 92, Dies; Illinois Governor and Later a U.S. Prisoner". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  4. 1 2 DePue, Mark (August 21, 2007). "ISG-A-L-2007-015 Interview # 1 of 3" (PDF). Interview with Dan Walker via rebootillinois.com. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Jenkins, Logan (March 6, 2003). "Projects keep former Illinois Governor from S.D. Moving Along". Union-Tribune. San Diego. Archived from the original on September 7, 2006.
  6. 1 2 Walker, 2007 p. 125.
  7. Walker, 2007 p. 111.
  8. 1 2 "Dan Walker, 1945". United States Naval Academy. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  9. "Biography of Illinois Governor Daniel Walker". Illinois Blue Book: 16. 1973–1974.
  10. KaiElz (2015-05-01). "Illinois Gov. Dan Walker dies at 92". The Chicago Defender. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  11. "Walker Report summary – History of the Federal Judiciary: The Chicago Seven Conspiracy Trial". fcj.gov.
  12. "Quinn Would Face $2 Billion Budget Gap as Blagojevich Successor". Bloomberg News. 2008-12-15. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
  13. "Victor deGrazia Oral History" (PDF). Oral History Project at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 20, 2006.
  14. Walker, 2007 p. 85.
  15. "Michael Howlett, Ex-secretary Of State". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  16. "Five last Walker lube centers to Jiffy Lube". Chicago Sun-Times. August 26, 1986.
  17. 1 2 Hidlay, William C. (November 20, 1987). "Former Governor Sentenced to Seven Years in Prison". Associated Press.
  18. 1 2 "Former Illinois governor gets 7-year prison term". The Bulletin. Bend, Oregon. UPI. November 20, 1987. p. C-9.
  19. "Plea Agreement" document issued by the United States District Court (USDC ND Ill)
  20. "New owner takes control of ailing savings and loan". Business, Section 3. Daily Herald. Suburban Chicago. February 7, 1989. p. 1.
  21. "U.S. is bailing out two failing S&L's". Post-Dispatch. St. Louis. February 5, 1989.
  22. Brown, Mark (January 17, 2001). "If Rosty gets pardoned, why not Walker?". Chicago Sun-Times.
  23. "Former Illinois Governor Guilty in Bank Fraud Case". Sentinel. Milwaukee, WI. Associated Press. August 6, 1987.
  24. Schoenburg, Bernard (2015-04-29). "Former Gov. Dan Walker dead at 92". State Journal-Register. Springfield, IL. Retrieved April 29, 2015.
  25. Rackl, Lori (December 2006). "Obituary, Roberta Dowse Walker 1924–2006". Chicago Sun-Times.
  26. "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.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sam Shapiro
Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
Michael Howlett
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Ogilvie
Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
James Thompson
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