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The Mayor

Thursday, Apr 19, 2007

It’s amazing when you think that Rosemont has been incorporated since 1955 and has had the same mayor ever since. That man, Don Stephens, died yesterday. Whatever you may think of him, there’s no denying that he was a giant of a man in his town, in Cook County and in Illinois. He was a builder. He was a visionary. He may or may not have been a lot of other things, but his legacy is his town, and what a town it is.

* The Tribune has the most extensive obit today…

Donald E. Stephens, whose half-century as mayor of Rosemont saw the village rise from a humble sliver of swampland near O’Hare International Airport to a nationally known convention center and hotel haven, died Wednesday evening. He was 79.

Although Stephens was famous for luring hotels, conventions, high-rise office buildings and restaurants to Rosemont, it was the business he failed to get — a casino — that darkened his reputation amid allegations he had “mob ties.” Stephens, his family and associates were fond of scoffing at the allegations. […]

First elected in 1956, the red-haired, barrel-chested, blunt-spoken Stephens became the state’s longest-serving mayor and among its best connected and most controversial leaders. […]

Stephens once described himself as “probably the most investigated S.O.B. in the world.”

* Daily Herald

Donald E. Stephens, who transformed a patch of garbage dumps and mob hangouts into a suburban entertainment and convention capital over the last half-century, has died. […]

Stephens famously started Rosemont from scratch in 1956 by targeting unattractive land where he lived near what’s now O’Hare International Airport. He bought a hotel from Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana in 1962, maintaining until the twilight of his life that the deal was meant to purge unsavory types from his fledgling town.

“That’s followed me for almost 40 years,” Stephens said in 2001 of the hotel deal. “Am I glad (he) didn’t have leprosy, because you people would be calling me a leper.” […]

Stephens built his own house from a kit, which included two-by-fours, siding and a rough floor. He also dug his own septic system and his carpenter stepfather installed the insulation and wiring. Stephens served in the National Guard, becoming lieutenant in the Army Reserve.

Stephens became president of the homeowners association in 1954. Residents asked Des Plaines, Park Ridge and Schiller Park to annex the land, but they turned them down. And in the following year, residents held a referendum and decided to incorporate.

* More…

* Sun-Times

* AP

* NBC5 Chicago

* CBS2 Chicago

* WBBM

- Posted by Rich Miller        

3 Comments
  1. - Kuz - Thursday, Apr 19, 07 @ 9:58 am:

    I don’t know much about Rosemont but I do have contempt for any public official who names a building after himself or herself while still in office. How ungracious. What egos he and Stroger Sr. must have had.


  2. - PalosParkBob - Thursday, Apr 19, 07 @ 3:30 pm:

    I understand that the Feds were after him for years for some “irregularities” in getting Rosemont construction and permits done.

    Word was that he got a “taste” of everything built there. I know a “bagman” from the old days (past the statute of limitations) that has some great stories about dealing with him.

    Gotta give him credit. When the Feds are after you with unlimited resources and you’re record is clean as a whistle, you are one sharp cookie.

    You also must be a fantastic judge of character, and an incredibly loyal friend, not to get ratted out.

    That being said, I believe the man was perhaps the most productive mayor for his community since King Richard I. He did an incredible job of making things happen in his town.

    “Indiscretions” aside, he was truly a great man and we may never see his like again.


  3. - Blue Dog - Thursday, Apr 19, 07 @ 8:42 pm:

    I have meet the man many times. He was true to his word. He was a productive mayor because he had a vision and went for it. Say what you want about the guy, bottom line is, he had respect. He was an original.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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