Descriptive inventory for the John A. McDermott Papers, 1949-1996

John A. McDermott papers

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Open Finding Aid

Descriptive inventory for the John A. McDermott Papers, 1949-1996

Prepared by Ashley Clark, 2017; ed. Julie Wroblewski, 2017.
Please address questions to:
Chicago History Museum, Research Center
1601 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Instructions for accessing this collection

Collection Overview +/-

Title: John A. McDermott papers, 1949-1996 (inclusive)
Creators: McDermott, John A.
Catholic Inter-Racial Council (Chicago, Ill.)
Dates: 1949-1996 (inclusive)
Accession number: 2010.29
Bib number: 00217238
Call number: MSS Lot M
Size: 21.5 linear feet (43 boxes)
Language of material:Collection is written in English.

Provenance statement:

Materials were a gift of Mrs. Marie McDermott (accession #: 2010.29)

Terms governing use:

All rights owned by the donor, including copyright, were deeded to Chicago Historical Society. Copyright may be retained by the creators of some third-party items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.


This collection is open for research use.

Please cite this collection as:

John A. McDermott papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description date, and box/folder and series/box number of a specific item.

Additional Materials +/-

Related material:

Related Materials at Chicago History Musuem, Research Center, include the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago Records and related materials cataloged separately as well as McDermott correspondence in the Jack Star papers, and the Friendship House records.

Collection Summary +/-

Correspondence, clippings, speeches and other materials documenting the life and career of John A. McDermott, an urban affairs and civil rights advocate who founded The Chicago Reporter in 1972, served as chairman of CONDUCT (Committee on Decent Unbiased Campaign Tactics) from 1984 to 1990, and served as executive director of the Catholic Interracial Council (CIC). In addition to the Catholic Interracial Council, the collection includes Supreme Court documents and papers related to: the Kennedy Foundation, the Philadelphia Council on Human Relations, and the National Center for the Laity. Topics include Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the April 1968 riots in Chicago, and other civil rights. Also included are materials from his term as Director of Urban Affairs at Illinois Bell Company in 1985, and the launch of his own consulting company, John A. McDermott and Associates, in 1992.

Biographical/Historical Note +/-

John A. McDermott was born in 1926, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and became an officer. He received a B.A. in Philosophy in 1955 from Villanova University, as well as a Certificate in Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, and was a Lasker Fellow in Civil Liberties and Civil Rights at Brandeis University in 1960. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1985. McDermott lived in the Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago with his wife Theresa and three sons.

McDermott’s career in urban affairs and race relations began in the 1950’s when he created a housing program with the City of Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority and its Commission on Human Rights. He went on to become a specialist in intergroup relations for the Federal Housing Administration in 1958. In 1960, McDermott moved to Chicago to serve as Director of the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago (CIC). During this time he also became involved in civil rights in Chicago. As an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Chicago Freedom Movement and in Dr. King’s meeting with city leaders including Mayor Richard J. Daley. He also served as one of the founders of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities (LCMOC), a Chicago-based fair housing group, and organized the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race (CCRR) in 1963.

McDermott and served as editor and publisher of “The Chicago Reporter” from 1972-1984, a monthly publication and investigation on race relations and urban affairs in the city. He left the Chicago Reporter to become Director of Urban Affairs for Illinois Bell Company in 1985 where he advised about company policies and programs in public policy, philanthropy, and community relations. During this time at the Chicago Reporter and Illinois Bell, 1984-1990, McDermott also served as chairman of CONDUCT (Committee on Decent Unbiased Campaign Tactics), a non-partisan group of Chicago civic leaders who became an election watchdog group, calling out racial and religious bias and hate in Chicago’s politics. In 1991, McDermott retired from Illinois Bell Company and launched his own consulting company, John A. McDermott and Associates, in 1992, which focused on corporate public policy and programs.

Catalog Subject Headings +/-

African Americans -- Civil Rights -- Illinois -- Chicago-- 20th century
Catholics -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Journalism -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
Poverty -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 20th century
King, Martin Luther, Jr. -- 1929-1968
McDermott, John A. -- Archives
Catholic Inter-Racial Council (Chicago, Ill.)
Chicago Freedom Movement
Chicago Reporter
National Center for the Laity
Chicago (Ill.) -- Riots, 1968 (April)
Chicago (Ill.) -- Social Conditions -- 20th century

Organization and Arrangement of Collection +/-

The collection is arranged in four series. Original order upheld in arrangement.

Click on heading to view series description.

Series 1. Race and Religion Relations and Civil Rights, 1957-1983 (boxes 1-7)
Series 2. Urban Affairs and Public Policies, 1983-1995 (boxes 8-30)
Series 3. Special Projects, Letters, Correspondence, and Speeches, 1965-1996 (boxes 31-39)
Series 4. Publications, 1965-1994 (boxes 40-43)

About This Finding Aid +/-

Creation: Finding aid encoded by Ashley Clark using Oxygen editor, 2017.
Language: Finding aid is written in English.
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