By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
I drove down to Springfield to seek out people who knew Powell. I remember a Mrs. Eva Murdock, a 57-year-old maid who had cleaned Powell's hotel room for years. In their final meeting, Mrs. Murdock approached Powell to solicit a donation for her church.
She remembered that Powell pulled out a thick roll of bills and gave her a big smile.
"I guess I can spare a dollar," Powell said to Mrs. Murdock, and handed it over with a flourish. Powell left the room but quickly came back. There was the remains of a fruitcake on his bedside table.
"Eva," Powell said, handing her the cake, "why don't you take this fruitcake home with my best wishes and enjoy it."
Mrs. Murdock recalled, somewhat disgustedly, that Powell had already taken two bites out of the cake.
One of Powell's great political allies was Orville Hodge, the state auditor. Hodge became famous in Illinois politics when it was discovered that he had embezzled millions from the state to support his grand lifestyle.
Hodge lived in the penthouse of the same hotel where Powell resided. Powell, who did not like to spend money on clothes, could frequently be seen wearing Hodge's hand-me-down shirts with the monograms "O.H." on the cuffs.
I remember encountering Powell's hotel bellman, Bill Nieroff, then in his late 50s.
"How big a tipper was Mr. Powell?" I asked Nieroff. He turned up his nose.
"I used to take Mr. Powell's bags to the train station across the street every weekend that he took the train home," the bellman said.
"For doing that practically every week and for countless other favors that he was always demanding, I could count on Mr. Powell giving me a $2 tip--every Christmas!"
@body:There's a well-known story that the late Congressman Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill used to tell about campaigning with John F. Kennedy that pretty well sums it all up.
They had a fund-raising breakfast, and Tip and JFK were in the john together. Tip said to Kennedy, "I've got $2,000 in cash and $6,000 in checks. What do you want me to do with it?"
Kennedy said, "Give me the two grand and give the checks to the treasurer."
Tip says to Kennedy, "You know, it's a funny thing about politics. It doesn't matter if you're running for alderman or president. It's all the same racket, isn't it?