Legendary Chicago Columnist Jack Mabley Dies At 90

By: Mark Fitzgerald

Chicago lost two noted journalists from two different newspaper eras over the weekend, with the death late Friday of Chicago Tribune critic Allan Johnson, 46, followed by the death Saturday of the legendary columnist Jack Mabley.

Mabley wrote an estimated 12,194 columns during eight decades in Chicago newspapers, according to an obituary by his colleague, Daily Herald columnist Burt Constable. Mabley’s career spanned two now-defunct Chicago papers, the Daily News and Chicago’s American, which was later renamed Chicago Today, to the Chicago Tribune, and finally, after he “retired,” the Daily Herald in suburban Arlington Heights, Ill.

He wrote his first column on Jan. 2, 1957 for the Daily News and his last on July 4, 2004 for the Daily Herald.

Mabley died Saturday at his Glenview home while recuperating from a broken hip.

Mabley was not as well-known outside of Chicago as Mike Royko, but he was every bit as popular, if less controversial, in the city.

The Daily Herald obit noted that at the height of his column’s popularity, Mabley had a nightly radio show, and covered sports for Playboy and jazz for DownBeat magazines. He once introduced a Beatles concert, according to the Tribune obit by Patrick T. Reardon and Ed Baumann.

Mabley was know for his charitable activities, and, after writing about the poor conditions of a state institution for mentally retarded children, created the Forgotten Children’s Fund. The school in Dixon, Ill., was re-named the Jack Mabley Developmental Center in 1971 by then-Gov. James R. Thompson.

Born in Binghamton, N.Y., he was raised in Chicago, where he began his journalism career in 1938 at the City News Bureau of Chicago. He started his newspaper career at the Chicago Daily News.

He served in the Navy for four years during World War II, returning to paper after his service. In 1961, four years after he started writing his column, he moved to the competing Chicago’s American. The Tribune obit said he took an estimated 29,000 readers with him.

When the newspaper, which had been renamed Chicago Today folded in 1974, he wrote for the Tribune for the next eight years. He retired in 1982, but went back to work as a columnist in 1988 for the Daily Herald.

“When Jack joined the Daily Herald as a columnist, he was recognized as one of only a handful of writers who represented the voice of the Chicago area,” Daily Herald CEO Douglas K. Ray said in the newspaper’s obituary. “When Jack spoke through his column, the community listened–not always agreeing with his viewpoint but always knowing that his opinions were heartfelt and honest. I think Jack felt the Daily Herald was home, and we all will miss him.”

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