Richard Joseph Daley, the grandson of Irish immigrants, was born in the Bridgeport area of Chicago on May 15, 1902. He was graduated from De La Salle Institute in 1918 and worked in the stockyards for several years before studying law. While studying, he worked as a clerk in the Cook County Controller's office. In 1936 Daley married Eleanor Guilfoyle, and the couple had three daughters and four sons. One son, Richard M. Daley, served in the Illinois Senate and as Cook County state's attorney before being elected mayor of Chicago in 1989.
Daley held several elected posts before becoming mayor. He was state representative from 1936 to 1938, state senator from 1939 to 1946, county deputy controller from 1946 to 1949, and county clerk from 1950 to 1955. He also served as state revenue director, an appointed position, under Governor Adlai Stevenson. In these positions, Daley gained a keen understanding of government and a mastery of budgets and revenue sources.