A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago

By Joel Arthur Tarr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
From Exposé to Senate Vindication

"DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATOR CONFESSES HE WAS BRIBED TO VOTE FOR LORIMER FOR UNITED STATES SENATOR," read the April 30, 1910, Tribune headline. "Charles A. White, Member of Illinois Assembly, Tells How Support Was Bought. Gives $1,000 As Price." The signed White story, written in his own words and illustrated with pictures of the bribers and the bribed, filled the first two pages of the paper. The Tribune published other parts of his story on the next two days.1

Who was Charles A. White, and what was the background to his confession? White was a slight, rather handsome fellow with grandiose ideas. Bom in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1881, he attended public school there and the Knoxville Business College, although not lingering long enough at either school to obtain a diploma. After drifting through several jobs with Knoxville and St. Louis mercantile firms, in 1903 he became a conductor on the East St. Louis & Suburban Railway Company. Like Lorimer when he worked on the streetcars, White was active in the local union; in 1907 he was chosen as its Springfield legislative representative. Most of White's ideas and attitudes stemmed from his labor experience, and he generally confined his reading to labor papers such as the American Federationist, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the Western Federationist. He favored, he said, "a great deal of the Socialist idea."2

In 1908 White was elected as a Democrat to the Illinois General Assembly from the Forty-ninth District. He became a member of

____________________
1
Tribune, Apr. 30, May 1, 2, 1910.
2
The best source for White's life and for the background to the bribery story is his testimony in the Dillingham Committee Hearings, III. 2404-2826.

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