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Paul Green

Monday, Sep 12, 2016

* Paul Green was a model “public citizen.” He revered the value of reasoned and informed public debate, and that was always at the very core of his outstanding chairmanship of the City Club of Chicago, his research projects, his books, his teaching and his punditry.

He thoroughly despised those who debased the public discourse with purely emotional appeals. He had his viewpoints, many of them strongly held, but he relied heavily on facts. And he could wield those facts like a machete.

But while Paul could deftly slice you ear to ear with his razor-sharp wit, you’d laugh as soon as you figured out what had just happened to you. He was an impossible man to hate.

* One advantage Paul possessed over many run of the mill pundits is he actually had political experience of his own. He knew what it was like to run for - and hold - office. He was most definitely not an ivory tower professor.

He was constantly curious about new developments and new points of view and could often be spotted at forums and events other than his own. His mind was like a voracious vacuum cleaner, but he could also analyze all those bits of information and present it in a fair and digestible format.

His knowledge of Chicago and Illinois history was always spot on. During the primary, I wrote about how Rep. Ken Dunkin’s campaign was allegedly buying votes for $50 a pop. Paul sent me this e-mail…

To show you political inflation—A century ago Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John would pay 1st ward flophouse residents 50 cents a vote—now $50

* I’m most certainly biased about Paul because he was a friend for over 25 years. After my surgery last year and my subsequent pledge to forever quit smoking cigarettes (after years of constant hounding from Green and others), Paul sent me this…


Two Words–THANK GOD–per stop smoking

As you may remember I told you how smoking basically killed my mom–

Stick to your pledge–TWO reasons–1. you are my friend and 2. the City Club now considers you a Xmas tradition!!


I kept that pledge, and going through our old e-mails today I realized that he often signed them “Your friend.” He was also one of the greatest public allies I’ve had through the years

Rich Miller’s independent Capitol Fax site, for example, is an established must-read in the state capitol—Paul Green, director of the Institute of Politics at Roosevelt University in Chicago, even suggests that the new efforts [to start up Chicago and Illinois-centric publications] should leave the statehouse to Miller and focus on Chicago.

* From the Sun-Times

In his head, Paul Green curated unrivaled stacks of knowledge about Chicago politics dating back to the 1800s.

As a political analyst, he regularly shared his thoughts on radio, television and in newspapers.

As a professor, first at Governors State University before heading the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University, he taught generations of students about the “Chicago machine.”

As an author, he delved into City Hall’s fifth floor occupants in a series of books, including one entitled “The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition.”

And as chairman of of the City Club of Chicago — a nonpartisan civic group that hosts forums and debates — Mr. Green served dually as a self-deprecating moderator and tough questioner of top local and national political figures.

* Tribune

“He was an excellent political scientist and historian, not only in Chicago, but for the state and national issues as well,” said longtime friend and colleague Ed Mazur. “He was very direct. He didn’t like BS or baloney. He always had a quick wit, so if you were two seconds too slow, he was already on the next page.”

Despite a rigorous academic background, Green was a self-styled humorist who was able to convey a sense of the city and its deep politics to national audiences in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time and Newsweek.

“The Marquess of Queensberry Rules (for boxing) in Illinois politics is, ‘You wear your trunks around your ankles. There are no low blows,’ ” he once said.

Last month, hosting a City Club event featuring Greg Baise, the CEO and president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association decrying Illinois’ economy, Green quipped to the audience: “For those of you taking Greg’s advice very seriously, we’ll have small vials of hemlock out there for those of you who think it just ain’t worth it.”

* WGN Radio

Long-time WGN Radio host Spike O’Dell, a friend and colleague of Green’s, posted the following on Facebook: “My heart is broken today with the news of Professor Paul Green’s passing. I always looked forward to our Wednesday morning conversation on WGN radio that I called “Paul and the Politicians”. He lived for the political “game”. He had a way of explaining it to our listeners in an informative, yet humorous way. He was my go to guy when it came to Chicago or Illinois politics. He will be missed by so many. I’m glad our paths had a chance to cross. Rest in peace my friend.”

* He would’ve gotten a kick out of tributes like this one from Mayor Emanuel

“Countless people across the city know him as a gifted writer, teacher, historian, and analyst. I have known Paul personally for many years, and was always impressed by his capacious intellect, his boundless curiosity, and his quick wit. But beyond just his infectious personality Paul will leave an indelible mark on Chicago through his Institute of Politics at Roosevelt University, which has inspired a new generation of Chicagoans to answer the call of public service.”

* Sheriff Dart

Many of us knew Paul as the whip smart and jovial host of the City Club of Chicago’s many influential events. But he was more than that. Paul cared deeply about the future of our city, and he was never afraid to engage directly and critically with the elected officials in positions to effect legitimate change. I appreciated him for his friendship, but I treasured him most of all for never hesitating to offer me ideas on how I could better serve my constituents. In an age of never-ending partisan squabbling and stalemates, I can think of no one who did not adore and respect Paul Green.

I honestly don’t know how our city will fill the incredible void left by this giant of Chicago politics. May he rest in peace, and may God bless his family on this very sad day.


Green was also the chairman at the City Club of Chicago, a non-partisan group that hosts newsmakers, debates, and forums – one of which he hosted as recently as Wednesday, according to a statement from City Club President Jay Doherty.

“As a professor, Paul taught thousands,” Doherty said in the statement. “As a researcher, he will touch generations to come. As a commentator on radio and TV, he helped us understand political currents in the moment, with unerring accuracy.”

“As the obligatory first stop for out-of-town journalists, he helped untold millions understand this city he loved. As an ambassador for Chicago on his many overseas speaking tours, he kindled interest in our region and connections that strengthened Chicago’s place in the world,” Doherty added.

* Public Radio

“Impeccably honest and brutally frank,” Doherty said. “He just called it like it was. He had a very biting wit. As he said many times, ‘I don’t give a rip. I’m going to tell it how it is.’”

Businessman Ed Mazur, a fellow City Club member who knew Green since they were in college, agreed. “He didn’t care much for what you might call BS,” Mazur said. “He didn’t like to dance around the edges. He liked to get to the heart of the matter.”

* Daily Herald

Politics were food and drink to Green, who liberally shared the vast riches of his knowledge through his writings, speeches and radio commentary.

“He loved government, he loved the city, he loved urban history, political history, public administration,” said Sharon Green. “He knew the numbers. He knew the facts. But he appreciated politics. He understood the good and the bad of politics.”

His book “The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition,” co-authored with Melvin G. Holli, is regarded as a classic.

* CBS 2

Paul Green was the Director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University.

“At Roosevelt, we know him as someone with such a strong supporter of his students and a mentor to his junior colleagues, and just a thoughtful colleague to everyone,” Bonnie Gunvenhauser, dean of Arts and Sciences at Roosevelt University tells WBBM Radio’s Nancy Harty. “He never really seemed happier than when he was telling me about some alum who had gotten a fantastic new job in politics, or with the Mayor’s office, or even outside of politics.”

* Crain’s

“Paul was an instrumental player in Crain’s early expansion into political commentary,” said Crain’s Publisher and former Editor David Snyder. “He had a rare ability to blend his unmatched skill in dissecting local election results with a shrewd understanding of street-level politics in the city, county and state. Layered on top of it all was a wonderful sense of humor.”

I retweeted several rememberances of Paul yesterday, so click here if you’d like to browse through them.

* The City Club gets the last word

We will miss him for longer than we knew him.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - James the Intolerant - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:30 am:

    Mr. Green would say that when politicians talked about “new revenue”, it was taxes, which were all about “who got, and who paid” (hope my quotes are accurate).
    Very sad loss, friendship is so important. I went to a wedding of the daughter of a good friend who died two years ago, she introduced me to her husband as “My Dad’s best friend.” I cried.
    God’s speed.

  2. - Porter McNeil - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:33 am:

    I looked forward to reading his in-depth analyses of statewide elections — 84, 88, 92, 96, etc. etc. He took the time to mine the numbers from all 102 counties and tried to make sense of the R v D trends (region by region). Last time I saw him was at the City Club earlier this year. “Yes, you’re from the Quad Cities.” And then he quickly rattled off the people he knew, and the ice cream he loved, from the Quad Cities. His energy, passion and political insights will be missed - rip.

  3. - thunderspirit - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:34 am:

    I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Green once when I worked at Roosevelt University years ago. I got to shake his hand and tell him I enjoyed his radio appearances, at which he laughed and told me I was “maybe the only one!”

    I will miss his insights. Peace to his family and those who knew him best.

  4. - Rod - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:44 am:

    Interesting Rich that Paul made the same point to you on Chicago’s history of vote buying that I did that day (see my post of March 7). Probably because Paul was from the same generation as myself and we shared a reverence mixed with distain for the enduring legacy of machine politics in this town. Paul will be missed by many of us.

  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:46 am:

    It was heartwarming to read the tweets you retweeted Rich.

    The remarks of those above, including your thoughts, clearly show the impact Professor Green, personally and professionally, on so many, including Chicago and Illinois.

    My sincere condolences to the Green family and his many friends.

  6. - A guy - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 10:58 am:

    Paul Green was a treasure. His gifts will keep giving for a long time. He admired fairness. Sleep gently Paul.

  7. - Jake From Elwood - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:00 am:

    A group I am affiliated with invited Professor Green as a guest speaker for a 75 minute program. His program was so popular that he stayed for over two hours and hung around for questions afterwards. I enjoyed listening to him on the radio as well. A true gentlemen.

  8. - anon - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:01 am:

    Professor Green did not share the hostility for politicians so common today, nor the attitude of much of the public that elections aren’t important. His analysis and witty commentary will be missed.

  9. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:01 am:

    My condolences for his family.

  10. - Now What? - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:03 am:

    Shocked and saddened to hear this. Paul was astute, intellectual, and empathetic. Also, a great Chicago guy. A true teacher in every sense of the word. Thank you for everything, professor.

  11. - James Knell - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:14 am:

    I encountered Paul Green at a few city-wide political science events in Chicago. I remember at one he led an spirited student delegation dressed in Roosevelt green. I also enjoyed his commentary. He was always worth listening to. I am enjoying reading the comments of others who knew him well. They ring true. We need more political scientists and more citizens like Paul Green.

  12. - cdog - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:15 am:

    I can sense the loss of a true master, of which there are few.

    Those who knew someone like him know this.

    I looked him up on the Roosevelt Univ website; I am always curious to know what the Doctors of Philosophy chose to write about for their dissertations.

    PhD, Urban Studies, Univ of Chicago
    Dissertation title– The Rise of the Chicago Democratic Party: 1840-1920

    Pretty cool! I bet he could tell some stories!

  13. - The Fool On The Hill - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:24 am:

    To the Post:

    You’re right to compare Inky Dink McKenna’s 50 cents to Rauner’s $50 gift cards.

  14. - Steve Brown - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:33 am:

    Paul was the best. We had just shared emails on Friday about the annual MillerFest at City Club so the Sunday morning news of his death was a great shock.
    Our paths first crossed when I was at the Daily Herald, later with Mayor Byrne and many many other times. As an academic, Paul was the best because he had worked in the system — teaching at the CPD Academy — and knew politicians were imperfect vessels. Other tend to lack that real world experience.
    My prayers are for comfort and strength for his wife and family.

  15. - Name Withheld - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 11:56 am:

    I did not have the privilege of knowing Mr. Green, but I did go to college with his daughter, a deceptively intelligent lady whom it’s good fortune to still call a friend. If she is his scion, then he was indeed an exemplary man. I feel the loss at not having made his acquaintance many years ago.

  16. - JS Mill - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 12:04 pm:

    Sad to see him go, he was an incredibly knowledgeable man. Always well thought out and well written.

    He will be missed.

  17. - Aldyth - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 12:28 pm:

    When Paul Green was on WGN, if I arrived at work, I sat in the parking lot and listened until he was done talking.A man who knew his stuff and was always worth listening to.

    Godspeed, sir. Deepest sympathies to your family.

  18. - titan - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 1:22 pm:

    Prof. Green was a truly wonderful human being. Friendly, gracious, classy, super smart, very hard working. He will be missed.

  19. - Bogey Golfer - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 1:41 pm:

    Used to listen to him on WGN when Spike O’Dell had the morning show. Knew his stuff and could talk at you and not over you. Sad to hear his passing.

  20. - Eric Zorn - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 2:11 pm:

    Several years ago I assembled a list of some of his catch phrases and favorite words and sent it to him and WGN suggesting they start an online Paul Green Bingo game for his many appearances there. Nothing ever came of it, but I posted the list today:

  21. - Retired SURS Employee - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 4:03 pm:

    I always thought of Paul Green as the worthy successor to my college Professor Milton Rakove. My sincere condolences to his family. Paul’s commentary will be greatly missed!

  22. - chitowndrummer - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 4:48 pm:

    Rich and the many, many folks who’ve posted tributes to Paul have captured him so well that there’s little to add. He was truly one of a kind — a brilliant political scientist whose keen insights were grounded in and informed by practical experience, a true gentleman who wielded his razor-sharp wit to great purpose, always aiming to inform, educate and inspire all around him. He also understood (and maintained) the distinction between corrosive cynicism and a healthy skepticism toward public officials — but has been pointed out, he did not suffer fools gladly and had a highly refined BS detector! We all are diminished by his loss, especially those of us who were fortunate enough to have had him as a friend and mentor. May God bless him and grant his family solace during this difficult time.

  23. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 5:05 pm:

    condolences to his family and friends, in particular Ed Mazur who is a wonderful person. Paul harkened back to the academic and real world expertise of the late Milton Rakove. those who understand the two worlds and who can appreciate both are actually really rare. combine that with a nice person, as Paul was, and the loss is particularly painful. somewhere, I imagine dearly departed smart ones convening to evaluate Illinois and Chicago politics. Rest in peace, but peace that includes dialogue.

  24. - downstate commissioner - Monday, Sep 12, 16 @ 5:32 pm:

    Years ago, Paul was involved with the Township Officials of Illinois Spring educational seminars; when I told him where I was from, he immediately mentioned a friend of mine who he had worked with in the past. He always remembered me at the meetings, and I attended some of them just to hear what he had to say. The seminars changed greatly when he moved on to other things. I remember him as quick-witted, with a huge knowledge of the political scene. Condolences to his family…

  25. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 13, 16 @ 9:48 pm:

    I raise a glass of whiskey to you, my friend. I imagine I am one of the multitudes to do so.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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