Kerner : The Conflict of Intangible Rights

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This first biography of Otto Kerner traces the heritage of a major figure in Illinois politics and explains his precipitous descent from public hero to public enemy. As a 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 and defended the rights of the accused. Kerner achieved national fame as chair of the National Commission of 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 operator.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 public attitudes toward public service. This broad-based study sets Kerner's life against a background 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 on the strengths and weaknesses of the American political character and the capriciousness of political acclaim and more

Product details

  • Hardback | 432 pages
  • 161.8 x 241.3 x 31.2mm | 900.74g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252025040
  • 9780252025044

Review quote

"Few Illinois governors had more promise than Otto Kerner - or had a more tragic end. This fine biography shows why Kerner mattered and how his legacy lives on." - Steve Neal, Chicago Sun Times "An excellent, thoroughly documented look at a complex man/politician and at the complex kingdoms of Chicago and Illinois politics." - Choice "Ultimately, 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." - Jane Manners, Brill's Content "The first and long-needed biography of one of the most unusual politician's in the state's history. In their well-written book, the authors offer not only a sympathetic telling of the rise and fall of one man, but a richly detailed story of Kerner's era and its ethnic politics, gangsters, reformers, patronage, elections, smoke-filled rooms, Democratic machine and intricacies of state politics... To Barnhart and Schlickman, Kerner's life is a cautionary tale that warns what can happen to one who enters public life but seeks to remain above the fray. The lesson to be learned? Never go into politics unless you love being a politician." - James L. Swanson, Chicago Tribune Books "An entertaining and informative book, worth the time of anyone interested in local history or politics." - Jack Leyhane, Summary Judgements "[Barnhart and Schlickman's] fine, easy prose with attention to the details - especially the political details - has produced a gripping story intertwining the prominent political figures in Illinois and the United States over the past 70 years. It is a classic human drama told with unusual integrity and balance." - Chicago Daily Law Bulletin "Fills a great void... The new biography digs deeply into the wellspring that fed Kerner's work on the [Kerner] commission and his 40-year career in public service... [This volume] is a good place to learn how we might more fully realize our great capacity for genuine nobility as human beings." - Anton Cermak Kerner, Chicago Tribune "Fortunately, at long last, [the authors] have provided us with the reasons why Kerner's accomplishments as a soldier, United States attorney, governor, chair of the [Kerner Commission], and as a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals have been overshadowed by his conviction on income tax evasion, bribery, mail fraud, and perjury... The authors have performed a valuable service in restoring Kerner's reputation and in asking students of Illinois history to recognize Otto Kerner's contribution to the state and nation's history." - David J. Maurer, Journal of Illinois Historyshow more

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6 ratings
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4 50% (3)
3 17% (1)
2 0% (0)
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