Dan Walker, who spent four tumultuous years as governor of Illinois and nearly 18 months as an inmate in federal prison for crimes related to his later business dealings, died April 29 at his home in Chula Vista, Calif. He was 92.
A son, Dan Walker Jr., confirmed the death but did not cite a cause.
Mr. Walker was an example of a new breed of Illinois politician — someone who disdained traditional political organization — and he won office in 1972 on the strength of his personality. As governor, however, he alienated fellow Democrats as well as Republicans, and he appeared to accomplish little.
After leaving office, Mr. Walker became the head of a suburban Chicago savings and loan, and he used the business to support a lavish lifestyle. He allegedly took out $1.4 million in bank loans under false pretenses. He pleaded guilty to fraud and perjury and was sentenced to federal prison in 1987.
Mr. Walker was vice president and general counsel of Montgomery Ward when he served as principal author of a study examinining violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The so-called Walker Report, instigated by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, described the convention violence as a “police riot” and laid much of the blame on the political handling of the demonstrators.
The report infuriated Mayor Richard J. Daley, a Democratic powerhouse and a strong backer of the police, and the tension between the mayor and Mr. Walker persisted for many years.
Mr. Walker managed Adlai E. Stevenson III’s successful Democratic campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1970 and then pursued public office himself. Mr. Walker grabbed voters’ attention in 1971 by walking across Illinois for 116 days, sleeping in farmhouses along the way.
“Government is out of touch with the people,” Mr. Walker proclaimed in speeches that promised to hold down taxes and increase education spending.
Mr. Walker captured the Democratic nomination for governor in 1972 over the establishment candidate, then-Lt. Gov. Paul Simon, who had Daley’s support. Simon later became a five-term Democratic congressman and a two-term U.S. senator, and he was a presidential candidate in 1988.
After defeating Simon, Mr. Walker went on to beat the Republican incumbent, Richard B. Ogilvie,who had established the state’s first income tax.
Once in office, Mr. Walker would say, he tried to work with the political establishment but was rejected from the outset, and his rupture with Daley fueled opposition to his populist legislative agenda. He lost the Democratic primary to a Daley-backed candidate in 1976.
“I was disliked by the professionals in both parties holding leadership positions as well as by the lower-echelon party regulars from Chicago,” he wrote. “Daley and the Chicago machine certainly did not want to see me succeed. The legislative leaders of both parties made no secret of their desire to ‘get Dan Walker,’ as they openly put it.”
Daniel Walker was born in Washington on Aug. 6, 1922, and he grew up near San Diego, where his father was serving in the Navy. He graduated in 1945 from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and was a Navy veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He received a law degree in 1950 from Northwestern University in Illinois.
Then he worked as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Fred Vinson and as an aide to Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson II. He became a partner in a Chicago law firm and joined Montgomery Ward in 1966.
After leaving the governorship, Mr. Walker was involved in a series of failed business ventures. He was a co-owner of First American Savings Loan Association of Oak Brook, Ill., when he was charged by federal regulators with crimes. He left prison in 1989.
His marriages to Roberta Dowse and Roberta Nelson ended in divorce.
Survivors include his third wife, the former Lily Stewart, seven children from his first marriage, 22 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Mr. Walker wrote seven books, including a memoir called “The Maverick and the Machine.”
The Washington Post contributed to this report.