Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Valerie Percy

Overcoming Grief

Two weeks after the murder, Chuck Percy announced that his family would get on with its life. He called a press conference together to say he would resume his Senate campaign.

"This is what I must do, and it is what my family wants me to do," he said. Six weeks later, he defeated incumbent Paul Douglas and moved his family to Washington. He sold the Kenilworth home, with its haunting memory.

Years later, he explained how he and his family had coped.

"We just didn't try to figure out why this happened," said Percy, a devoted Christian Scientist. "You just have to trust in the Lord and know you can adjust."

Percy went on to become a singular figure in the world of business and politics. He was a liberal-to-moderate Republican. During 20 years in Congress, he became a leader in international affairs as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Percy was born in 1919 in Pensacola, Fla., but raised and educated at public schools in Chicago and Winnetka.

Even as a boy, Percy had a knack for selling. At age 5, he got his first job as a magazine hawker. Two years later, he won a Chicago YMCA salesmanship award.

During high school in Winnetka, Percy earned more money than many of his classmates' parents by holding four jobs simultaneously. By the time he entered the University of Chicago, he had a net worth of $100,000, and his various business enterprises were grossing more than $150,000 a year.

Yet he yearned to follow in the footsteps of his father, an employee of Bell & Howell, the Chicago-based camera maker, so he took a summer job there, earning just $12 a week.

By the time he finished college, Bell & Howell had reserved a top-floor office for Percy. It was obvious he would be running the company one day—sooner rather than later. His graduation present was a directorship.


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