Influential lawyer and political adviser Wayne Whalen dies

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Wayne Whalen led the Chicago office of the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom for more than 25 years and was active in Democratic politics, serving as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1969 and 1970 and working on both mayoral campaigns.

“Wayne had an extraordinary ability to see things clearly, to think clearly and to speak clearly what he saw and thought,” said former colleague John R. Schmidt, chief of staff to former mayor Richard M. .Daley. “He used this ability to clarify the most complex legal situations in a way that made his colleagues and clients want to work with them – and gave them the confidence to move forward.”

Whalen, 82, died of progressive supranuclear palsy on June 20 at his home in the Kenwood neighborhood, his daughter, Ann, said.

Born Wayne Walter Whalen in Savanna, Illinois, Whalen was the son of the founder of the “Whistling Wings” duck farm – the world’s largest producer of mallards – in Little Hanover in the northwest corner of the state. .

He graduated from Hanover High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the Air Force Academy in 1961. He served as a missile launch officer and first lieutenant at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas for three years before moving to Chicago to attend Northwestern. University Faculty of Law.

After graduating from law school in 1967, Whalen joined the law firm Mayer, Brown & Platt as an associate, becoming a partner in 1974.

In 1969, Whalen took leave of Mayer Brown to be a delegate to the 1970 state constitutional convention. most important of the convention, Schmidt said.

“He went through all the groundwork before it was finalized to try to make sure the words of the new constitution would hit their mark,” said Schmidt, who had worked alongside Whalen at Mayer Brown. . “An Illinois Supreme Court justice once told me that in deciding Illinois constitutional cases, she came to review Wayne’s convention comments – often as the last speaker before a vote – to give him clarity and guidance.”

In July 1972, Whalen and Schmidt represented a delegation led by Aldermen William Singer and William Cousins, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. that challenged and eventually replaced then-Mayor Richard J. Daley and 58 other delegates on the floor of the National Democrat. Congress in Miami.

A Cook County judge had earlier issued an order barring the delegation from attending the convention and threatened everyone with contempt. However, Whalen stood firm, and the Committee of Democratic Powers eventually gave badges to the 59 rebel Chicago delegates. Several years later, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Singer bloc, concluding that national political parties have the right to make rules that can override state law.

“Wayne never hesitated for a moment that we had the right to participate and that we should,” Schmidt said. “And after the convention, the United States Supreme Court (in 1975) accepted and reversed the Cook County Court’s order on constitutional grounds.”

Whalen was part of a consortium of prominent Chicagoans led by then-Chicago Sun-Times publisher James Hoge, who in 1983 lost to Rupert Murdoch in a bid to buy the tabloid.

In 1984 Whalen left Mayer Brown to join Skadden Arps as head of its new Chicago office.

Whalen considered running for governor in 1990 as an alternative to then-Attorney General Neil Hartigan. Instead, he continued to immerse himself in his law practice, which focused on buyouts, corporate restructurings, and friendly consolidations.

“Deals are our priority,” Whalen told the Tribune in 1991. greater crime than the lawyer who botches it up.”

“Wayne was a truly larger-than-life attorney,” said former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, partner at Skadden Arps. “Lawyers who had the chance to practice with him had the opportunity to work with someone who had seen it all and done it all. Wayne was also a man of few words, and so people latched onto every one of them.

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Whalen has served on numerous boards, including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Foundation, the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, and the Mutual Fund Trustees Forum. He also helped found and served as chairman of the board of Van Kampen American Capital Funds, now part of Invesco.

In January 2010, Whalen resigned as managing partner of the Chicago office of Skadden Arps, but remained an adviser to the firm. He fully retired in January 2020.

‘During his 82 years he held many roles – barrister, adviser, writer, barrister – but whatever role he played, he will always be remembered for his ability to build bridges and take action. like a steady hand in difficult times,” Cook County Council Chairman Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement.

In addition to his daughter, Whalen is survived by his wife of 52 years, former Governors State University president Paula Wolff, whom he met at the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention; two other daughters, Amanda and Clementine; two sons, Nathaniel and Daniel Hodges; two sisters, Marianne Murphy and Catharine Eisenhofer; one brother, William; and 11 grandchildren.

Benefits are pending.

Goldsborough is a freelance journalist.

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