Suicides are always mysteries.
What convergence of moment and mood convinces a person that death is trouble's only exit?
Why does one person respond to pressure by choosing the void while another person faced with a similar measure of loss, shame or fear slogs on through life?
The questions come to mind in the case of Orlando Jones, a name most of us probably didn't know until last week when he was found dead with a gun in his hand and a gunshot wound in his head on a lakefront beach in Michigan.
The names of the players in Cook County government don't trip readily off the average Chicago tongue, unless the name is Stroger. Beyond some details about John, the father, and Todd, the son who inherited Dad's job, all the average person could probably tell you about the Stroger fiefdom is that it seems chronically a mess.
A balding, full-faced, mustachioed man of 52, Jones was one of those political people you may have seen in the news but never really looked at. He was unlikely to be in the center of the picture.
Stories about his apparent suicide have called him variously a one-time political insider, a political fixture, politically connected, a top aide and a small fish. John Stroger made him his godson and, later, when Stroger was elected County Board president, his chief of staff.
The stories have been careful to use the word "apparent" about his suicide, though there doesn't seem to be any real doubt about how he died.
Along with the gun in his hand, there was a note in a desk drawer that his wife found in their Chicago home. It stipulated how his affairs should be handled when he was gone.
But another of suicide's mysteries is this: Exactly what happened is unlikely to be discovered, even if the clues add up.
Suicides are almost always private. In a murder, the killer is the witness. In a suicide, in general, the only witness is the victim.
And as often as not, friends and relatives are so shocked and baffled that they're disbelieving. We prefer to think that suicide follows conspicuous depression or distress; otherwise the ultimate drastic act is even harder to fathom.
"I'm not saying there's foul play involved," Jones' lawyer, Robert Stephenson, told the Tribune. "I'm telling you if he did take his own life, there were demons haunting him that I was totally unaware of."
Jones and his lawyer had met on Tuesday to talk about an investigation by Las Vegas police that connected Jones to an alleged phony billing scheme at a public hospital there. The FBI had also recently asked to talk to Jones, though he had declined.
But he hadn't been charged with anything, and his lawyer said he seemed fine the day before he died; he talked about the future.
Because Jones wasn't particularly well-known, his death has not been greeted by any great public mourning. His apparent suicide made news because of who he knew, not who he was.
To the public, Jones' death is mostly a tale of politics, with enough whiff of mystery tossed in to make the politics more interesting.
The Stroger regime is known for its hints of secrets and skulduggery, and a suicide by a close ally makes a good plot for a public addicted to "Law & Order" and "CSI."
But it's worth pausing to remember that whatever else Jones may have been, he was a father and a husband and a friend. He was a man with the dream of a vacation home near the serene beach where he died.
The real mystery he leaves behind may be no darker than the one that lingers after any suicide: If he had only waited out the moment's desperation, would he be glad to still be alive?
ENTER WILLIAM BLAIR & CO.
WILLIAM BLAIR & CO.? ...
" ... William graduated from Groton School in 1903, and received a BA from Yale in 1907. At Yale, he was a member of SKULL AND BONES. His son, Bowen Blair notes that Skull and Bones were most eager to have him among their ranks. ... "
"PAUL D WOLFOWITZ - Senior adviser, William Blair & Co."
Donald Rumsfeld" width="300" height="243" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-7238" />" ... Defense Secretary DONALD H. RUMSFELD, whose first campaign for Congress in 1962 was managed by Edgar Jannotta of WILLIAM BLAIR & CO., and who was a senior advisor to that firm from 1985-1990, is a former director of Amylin. ... "
In the mid-'70s:
RUMSFELD, DONALD H ESQ
CHICAGO, IL 60603
WILLIAM BLAIR & COMPANY
" ... When Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976, Rumsfeld headed for the corporate world after a brief flirtation with lecturing at Princeton, his alma mater. ... He's also served as a senior adviser to investment bank William Blair & Co. and as a director of various other firms. ... "
Top aide to former president now pulls in hundreds of thousands for job done in '04
September 13, 2007
Orlando Jones' sweet government deal just got sweeter -- by about $75,000 a year.
Jones is a godson and former top aide to former Cook County Board President John Stroger. He also once worked for politically connected developer Tony Rezko, who is under indictment on corruption charges.
These days, Jones is a consultant and lobbyist whose clients include William Blair & Co., a Chicago financial firm that pays him a six-figure "referral fee" every year -- for a job he did in 2004.
Now, Jones stands to grow even richer from the deal. Here's how:
The Illinois State Board of Investment oversees retirement funds for state employees, lawmakers and judges. In 2004, the state agency invested $280 million with the William Blair firm.
Orlando Jones & Associates is making money off that arrangement because Jones told state pension officials about William Blair's services. He made the introduction.
For that, Jones got 20 percent of the management fees the state paid William Blair in the first year of the deal. Jones' cut: $221,852, records show.
In year 2, Jones was to get 15 percent of William Blair's fees. That came to $219,668.
Year 3, Jones got 10 percent -- $149,609.
Year 4 is off to an even better start. Jones is to get 10 percent of William Blair's fees every year the firm continues to do business with the pension board. This summer, the state board gave William Blair more money to invest, bringing the total to $505 million.
When William Blair gets more money, so does Jones. His referral fee stands to net him about $224,000 this year, his biggest payday yet.
A William Blair spokesman didn't want to comment. Jones didn't return telephone calls over the past few weeks, either.
But he defended the arrangement in an interview in 2005, saying he's worked with William Blair on pension deals across the country and is paid only when the firm gets business.
And what exactly does he do for his six-figure annuity?
"I help them in terms of how we're going to make presentations to various pension boards and executive directors -- how we lay out our performance and experience," Jones said.
MORE ON THE BLAIRS, LASKER FOUNDATION
The Mrs. William McCormick Blair Jr.
Catherine Gerlach Blair, Vice President and a director of the Lasker Foundation
"Greased by old Chicago ties, Deeda Blair and Mary Lasker became close, and, in 1965, Deeda was named a director and vice-president of the Lasker Foundation.... Through her association with Mary Lasker, Deeda Blair's influence became enormous, too. She was appointed to boards and committees affiliated with organizations from Duke University's Comprehensive Cancer Center to the Harvard School of Public Health, to Rockefeller University to the American Cancer Society. At one time or another she has sat on some of the most prestigious boards and committees in the world of biological research. ... She was Mary Lasker's connection to Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Elliot Richardson in the Nixon administration (pp 92-93). "She is still the one person in the world who can sit next to the catwalks of Paris during the spring shows, put the arm on a few of the 500 or so women who regularly support couture by purchasing dresses priced about the same as a BMW, and come back with a quarter of a million dollars for a new DNA sequencing machine for somebody's lab. 'Deeda could walk through the NIH and everybody would genuflect,' an acquaintance told me (p. 94." (Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion. By Brian Alexander. Basic Books, 2003.)
" ... the University of Chicago, where William Blair & Co. partners are very influential on the Board of Trustees. ... "