I’ve been researching the life of Bernard Daly and the impact of the scholarship he created a century ago. It’s an incredible story and Daly was an impressive man. By almost all accounts, Bernard Daly was remarkably successful, prosperous, and generous. I say almost all accounts because Daly did have his critics. I shouldn’t be surprised as Daly was in the public eye for almost all of his adult life, and his wealth and his frugal nature attracted much attention. In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I’d devote this post to his critics.
I found some of the criticism in newspaper articles, none from Lake County papers. During Daly’s life, newspapers were very political and partisan. Most Oregon newspapers strongly supported Republicans (the majority party of the time), and Daly was a life-long Democrat.
Here are a couple of quotes from newspaper articles.
“In the recent fire at Lakeview Bernard Daly lost some property but he is still a rich man and the effort being made to create sympathy for him is absurd. He holds, for instance, $30,000 in Lake county warrants which are interest-bearing and non-taxable. Some of his property was well insured, and his drug store is still doing business. Poor man!” Lincoln County Leader, June 1, 1900
“During his lifetime Bernard Daly of Lake County was not highly regarded by his fellow citizens. He was a physician and capitalist and lost no opportunity to add to his possessions. He was regarded as a progressive by the boosters and apparently cared nothing at all for the advancement of the locality in which he lived. Since his death, however, public opinion in Lake County regarding him as radically changed. At his death by the terms of a will then made public, a fund of something like a million dollars was turned over as a trust fund for the education of Lake County young people and in a manner which advertises the county in a most advantageous manner.” The Monmouth Herald, December 8, 1922
I was surprised to see that this was the lead paragraph in the story announcing that six Daly Fund students were attending the Monmouth Normal School, today’s Western Oregon University. I would have thought the focus of the article would be on the students and their good fortune to have received scholarships.
As might be expected, there was also criticism of Daly in his political campaigns. In an article on the 1900 congressional election*, the Oregonian, a strongly Republican paper, wrote this about Daly,
“The main fight this year is between Daly and Tongue. While it is Daly’s home, he has many enemies here. They are making a desperate effort to carry the county against him. A stranger arriving here even before the campaign was thought of would never have expected to learn that Dr. Daly held office or would stand any show in this county. He is the most universally “cussed” man in the county. He is rarely ever spoke of favorably by any man. Yet he has been in office for more than 10 years and has never been defeated in this county for anything. There are no serious charges made against him, but everybody talks about Daly, and his enemies hate him worse than they do a snake. His friends say it all jealousy. They say that Daly has accumulated property here, always manages to succeed in whatever he undertakes, and that this has caused a jealousy that has grown to madness among his opponents. They declare they will defeat him this time, but a Daly man started out yesterday and offered to bet $50 with every man that would take him up that Daly would carry the county. The bet is public and notorious, but no man has yet covered it.” The Oregonian, May 4, 1900
And, there is the story of Ted Conn and his father, Lafayette (Lafe) Conn.** Ted graduated from Lakeview High School in 1926 and wanted to apply for the Daly Fund, but his father would not allow it because Daly beat him in the 1916 Circuit Court Judge election, and the two men had a very bitter relationship. Against his father’s wishes, Ted applied for and received the scholarship for his senior year at the University of Oregon. After law school, Ted returned to Lakeview and joined his dad’s law office. Ironically, Ted went on to serve as the secretary-treasurer for the Daly Fund for about forty years.
Daly’s life was not without criticism, but I suspect the criticism tells us more about the critics, than Daly.
*Daly’s 1900 campaign for the U.S. Congress was short-lived as he abandoned campaigning to return to Lakeview to assist in rebuilding the town following the tragic fire.
**I had been puzzled by the fact that Ted Conn graduated from high school in 1926 but did not receive the scholarship until 1929, until I read this account of the animosity between Lafe Conn and Daly on the wonderfully informative Facebook site, ‘I Love Lake County.’