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Beavers is ‘last of the old-school tough guys’ in politics

William Beavers 2008 County Board meeting.  |  al podgorski~sun-Times

William Beavers at a 2008 County Board meeting. | al podgorski~sun-Times

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Updated: March 25, 2012 8:18AM

William Beavers is an old-school caricature of a Chicago aldermen who loved patronage and contracts, made no apologies for it and “retired” to the Cook County Board to “relax and enjoy the good life.”

Always dressed to the nines, Beavers bragged about “going to the boats” to gamble, traveled to every Super Bowl and chain-smoked in the ante-room behind the City Council chambers — even though he suffered from phlebitis — long after smoking was banned at City Hall.

He browbeat city department heads — and former Mayor Richard M. Daley — to share the gravy train of city contracts with black businesses instead of giving it all to the white guys with clout.

“I’m not an idiot. I know what these deals are — and I’ve been knowing what they are. All I want is just, give me some. I’m not asking nobody to be fair ‘cause I wouldn’t be fair if I was the mayor. Just give me some. Just give me some of it, okay. Don’t take it all,” he once said.

It wasn’t the first time that Beavers had stepped on toes in the quest for black empowerment.

He repeatedly pushed to switch Chicago firefighters to an eight-hour shift to stop racial hijnks in the city’s firehouses — and racist talk on fire radio — that culminated in a raucous retirement party at Engine 100 captured on a notorious video tape.

After a marathon court challenge, he urged Daley to scrap a pass-fail system and hire candidates who took Chicago’s first firefighters entrance exam in more than a decade in order of their test scores.

“I believe black folks are as smart as white folks. I ain’t never thought nothing different. So, give them the scores that they get. I’ll take my chances. You don’t know what they do when they put a lottery in. I’ve seen them do it in the past. I don’t trust the way they do it,” he once said.

Political loyalty was everything to Beavers.

He stuck by his protégé, former Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th), even after Troutman was indicted and convicted.

When his old friend Cook County Board President John Stroger suffered a debilitating stroke, Beavers lined up the votes for Stroger’s son, predicted Todd Stroger would grow in the job, and stuck by the younger Stroger when he was under political siege.

Beavers engineered his own daughter’s appointment to his old Council seat but was unable to get her elected to a full term. Sandi Jackson, wife of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, beat Darcel Beavers in the next election.

When Rod Blagojevich threatened to veto a Chicago casino and picked a budget fight with another ally, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Beavers turned on the now-convicted former governor two years after Blagojevich got elected.

“He’s a one-termer. He’s alienated everybody. ... All he is is mouth, mouth, mouth,” Beavers said then.

“I supported him from day one. I thought he was a team player. ... It don’t look like he’s a team player now. He acts like we don’t exist.”

A few years ago, Beavers told reporters he makes “no new friends” and needed to “learn to speak sign language” because you never know who might be wearing a wire.

Now, at the age of 77, the former cop who managed to stay out of trouble for decades finds himself in the middle of it. With trademark bravado, Beavers is fighting back — by claiming he was targeted for refusing to wear a wire on John Daley, the former mayor’s brother.

“He was the last of the old-school tough guys. He acted like he wasn’t afraid of anybody, and he would take on anybody. I don’t think there’s too many like him,” said a former colleague.

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