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Mike Royko papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Royko

Scope and Content of the Collection

Works, articles, columns, drafts, research and subject material, correspondence, personal items, mementoes, awards, and photographs reflecting the life and career of Mike Royko. A large portion of Royko's papers is the columns from all three major Chicago newspapers in his long tenure as a columnist. In the early years, he would write a subject heading at the top of the column; occasionally, in later years, he would mark up the columns with corrections and editorial remarks. A small amount of Royko's non-news literary output is reflected in the collection too, such as parts of the annotated carbon copy of Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago.

Letters from his readers take up a large part of the collection too; he kept both favorable and unfavorable (and sometimes unintelligible) correspondence from his readers, on selected topics. These are separated from incoming and outgoing correspondence, which tended to be to and from people Royko knew personally or from famous people, or else they were related to his work. Royko also kept subject files, which included information about a topic as well as copies of some of his columns addressing that topic. The collection also includes extensive publicity files: clippings about Royko, about the awards he won through his newspaper career, and reviews and announcements of his books. Finally, there are smaller amounts of photographic material, awards, certificates, plaques, and artifacts such as Royko's cigarettes, hats, coats, and Rolodex address file.


  • Creation: 1934-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1962 - 1997



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Mike Royko papers are open for research and available to users one box at a time in the Special Collections Reading Room. (Priority III)

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Mike Royko papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to either the Newberry Library or the applicable author or his or her heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

The rights to Royko's book Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago are retained by Judy Royko.

Biography of Mike Royko

Mike Royko was born September 19, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of an immigrant tavernkeeper and his wife. He grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood near Milwaukee Avenue, which at the time was predominantly a working class mix of German, Ukrainian, Polish, and other immigrants. He spent four years in the air force in Korea as a radio operator and at O'Hare Field as editor of the base newspaper.

In 1956 Royko applied to the Chicago City News Bureau for a job. He began writing articles for small Chicago neighborhood papers, and then in 1959 Royko was hired by the Chicago Daily News, initially as a night police reporter. After covering local and state government, he began to write a weekly column concerning county government called The County Beat. Soon after, he convinced the Daily News that he should have a regular column, and before long his byline appeared five days a week. Some of Royko’s favorite topics in those early years (many of which remained favorites throughout his writing career) was Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago political machine, national politics, race, generational differences, cultural trends, animals, and sports. He also published letters from his readers, and Royko's comments on those letters, quite regularly. Royko received the ultimate recognition within his profession in 1972 when he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. During his long and distinguished career, he received many honors in addition to the Pulitzer, including the Washington Journalism Review's Best Columnist in America Award, the Ernie Pyle Award, and the H.L. Mencken Award.

In 1969, E.P. Dutton Publishers approached Royko about writing a book about Mayor Daley. At first Royko was hesitant, but the publisher, along with friend Studs Terkel, convinced him to undertake the project. In 1971 his widely acclaimed book, Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, was published. The book garnered favorable reviews nationwide, and even inspired a short-lived local boycott of National Tea Company stores (now known as Jewel Supermarkets) because the store temporarily removed Boss from its book section. Over the course of his career, Royko also published six best-selling collections of his columns.

After the Daily News folded in 1978 Royko moved to the Chicago Sun-Times, where his columns initiated criminal investigations and influenced political contests, including the mayoral election of Jane Byrne. When the Sun-Times was purchased by media mogul Rupert Murdoch in 1984, Royko left in disgust for the rival Chicago Tribune. With Tribune syndication, Royko was soon appearing in 600 newspapers across the country.

Royko married twice and had four children: in 1954 Royko married Carol Joyce Duckman, with whom he had two sons. Carol Royko died suddenly in 1979. He married Judy Arndt in 1985 and had two children, a boy in 1987 and a girl in 1992. He died in Chicago on April 29, 1997, after suffering a brain aneurysm while vacationing in Florida.


36.6 Linear Feet (17 boxes, 2 cartons, and 18 oversize boxes)


Correspondence, columns, other works, and personal material of journalist, columnist, and author Mike Royko. Royko received his journalistic training by working for the Chicago City News Bureau (1956-1959) and went on to be a favorite columnist at the Chicago Daily News (1959-1978); The Chicago Sun-Times (1978-1984); and the Chicago Tribune (1984-1997). Royko is known for writing his best-seller Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago, and for winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for commentary.


Papers are organized into the following series:

Series 1: Outgoing Correspondence, 1969-1979
Box 1
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence, 1962-1996
Box 1
Series 3: Correspondence from Readers, 1962-1997
Boxes 2-9
Series 4: Works, undated, 1970-1992
Box 10
Series 5: Subject Files, 1934-1996
Boxes 10-12
Series 6: Publicity, 1945-1997
Boxes 13-14
Series 7: Personal, 1958-1997
Boxes 15-16
Series 8: Photographs, 1971-approximately 1995
Box 16
Series 9: Columns, 1962-1997
Boxes 17-31
Series 10: Awards and Certificates, 1960-1997
Box 32
Series 11: Art and Artifacts
Boxes 33-37

Collection Stack Location

1 31 5, 1 43 9, 1 43 11, 1 43 12, Artifact Cage


Gift of Judy Royko, 2005.

Processed by

Alison Hinderliter and Pamela Olson, 2005.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Mike Royko papers, 1934-1997, bulk 1962-1997
Alison Hinderliter
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States