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Arvey, Jacob M.


ARVEY, JACOB M. (1893–1977), U.S. attorney and politician. Arvey was born in Chicago, qualified as a lawyer, and entered politics in 1918. In 1923 he was elected alderman from Chicago's heavily Jewish 24th ward, a position he held until 1941; from 1930 to 1934 he also served as master in chancery of the Cook County Court. Under the administration of Mayor Edward Kelly (1933–47), with whom he was closely associated, Arvey rose to prominence in Chicago's powerful Democratic Party machine.

After service as colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Department in the Pacific during World War ii, Arvey became a Democratic national committeeman from Illinois, a key post which enabled him to dominate local and state political life and to control the large Illinois delegation at national Democratic conventions over a period of 20 years. He was largely responsible for putting into office such figures as Chicago Mayor Martin H. Kennelly and Senator Paul Douglas. More than any other single individual, it was Arvey who masterminded the campaign that culminated in Stevenson's nomination for the presidency in 1952. His generally liberal outlook, his ability to adapt to changing times, and his eye for promoting individuals of unusual political intelligence and stature served to distinguish him from the ordinary political boss.

Throughout his career Arvey was highly active in Jewish life. He was chairman of the Israel Bond Campaign in Chicago. A Jewish National Fund reclamation project and a forest in Israel bear his name.


J. Gunther, Inside U.S.A. (1951), 33, 400, 403; V.W. Peterson, Barbarians in Our Midst (1952), passim; The Reporter (June 7, 1949); Collier's (Feb. 1950); New York Times Magazine (Aug. 3, 1952).

[Hillel Halkin]

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