Chief O’Neill Documentary

Francis O'Neill Documentary on PBS
Francis O’Neill Documentary on PBS

It is amazing what can pop out when you search the internet. I came across the following fine documentary from Chicago’s PBS station Channel 11 while googling for other Francis O’Neill related material. Although I have been researching his life for a number of years, this thirty minute survey of the life of a famous Chicagoan escaped me until now.

The documentary is well-researched and includes some nuggets that I was not aware of. Such as the fact that as Chief, O’Neill’s main goal in changing the police badge was to counter the corrupt practice of “hiding the star”. Apparently the enamel was easy to rub off of the older model and made police of the time less accountable.

The video covers well the disparate aspects of O’Neill’s life: his career as a top police officer, his musical endeavours, the tragic losses of his life and his successes as a scholar. It also notes how unfortunate it is that the history of O’Neill is so unknown in present times. As the great Chicago journalist John Callaway says in the introduction:

You are about to meet a truly remarkable Chicagoan. His name is Francis O’Neill. And he is remarkable because of what he accomplished in this city… What may be most remarkable is that today, despite all his accomplishments, his name in Chicago is virtually unknown.

The documentary is from 2001. It is fair to say that the goal to make O’Neill’s story more widely known is as important now as then. This blog is my own small attempt to do so. On a side note, I am unable to embed the video in this post so here is the full link to the PBS site:

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