“It was a war, chiefly, between the Irish and the Italians. I’m Irish and I’d come into my office in the morning after another shoot-out and I would say to my co-worker, who was Italian, ‘Well that’s one to my side’ and the next day he would come and say ‘well, it’s leveled Jim, we chalked one up on our side last night.’ It was awful really, they were all such young men.” —James Doherty, crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune
By 1930, Roger Touhy and Matt Kolb were millionaires. Their small, but profitable beer and gambling empire stretched from midtown Chicago to as far north as St. Paul, Minnesota. They owned dozens of speakeasies, roadside casinos, handbook parlors, three large breweries, and an enormous fleet of trucks. Roger saw repeal approaching and invested his earnings in a dry cleaning business with Kolb’s brother, commercial real estate, a well digging company and a winter place for himself in Florida. Unlike Matt Kolb or even his own broth-ers, Roger intended to be completely legitimate by
1933. Then he and Clara and their boys would sell everything and move west to Colorado, although Clara was holding out for Florida.
However, if Touhy was ready for prohibition to end, the mob wasn’t. The depression hurt more and more of the mob’s traditional enterprises like prosti-tution and gambling. A1 Capone decided to take over Chicago’s labor racket business and gain control of the Teamsters International strike fund, worth an estimated $150,000,000 with another $10,000,000 a year flowing into its coffers from membership dues.
Leading Capone’s assault was George “Red” Barker, a west side Irishman and former bookkeep-er. Working under Barker as his assistant was the up and coming Murray Humpreys, a Welshman who had strong-armed his way into at least twenty-six Teamster locals by then. When the decade of the 1930s opened, George Red Barker was, as one Chicago cop put it, “riding on top of the world.” Barker all but controlled the Chicago Teamsters and was reported to be earning $200,000 a year as a result.
Before he took to a life of crime, Barker had been an honest bookkeeper. He was literate, devouring every union newsletter and newspaper he could find from anywhere in the country, and paid for informa-tion on locals as well. Barker would get a copy of the financials and study them. If the union had poten-tial, Barker recommended the takeover to Ralph Capone and Frank Nitti who talked it over with A1 Capone. If Capone agreed—and he almost always did—Barker and his boys would go after the union.
In early 1931, Capone urged Barker to go after the coal teamsters.
Barker approached James “Lefty” Lynch, a semi- honest thug who owned the Coal Teamsters Local 704, which delivered fuel to the entire downtown district where every office building depended upon the local for fuel to warm its buildings against the brutal Chicago winters. Barker told Lynch that Capone expected him to turn over half of the control of his union as well as his seat on the prestigious and important Joint Teamsters Council. In exchange, Barker offered Lynch protection. On the up side, Barker told Lynch, Capone intended to dou-ble the union’s membership and as a result Lynch’s income would double as well.
Lynch sat through Barker’s speech and then threw him out of his office. It was his union and he wasn’t going to give it up to Capone or anyone else.
Later in the month, Lynch went to his summer home on Brown Lake outside Burlington, Wisconsin. His family was preparing a barbecue and the members were seated around a long picnic table when Danny Stanton and Klondike O’Donnell, two of the meanest Capone hoods in Chicago, drove into the yard. They climbed out of the car slowly. They were in no hurry. There were no cops or witnesses around for miles. They were armed with shotguns, pistols and rifles. Stanton walked over to Lynch and said, ‘The Big Fellow back in Chicago sends this message: you just retired from Local 704. From this moment on, you stay away from the union hall. You stay away from the office. You stay away from the Joint Council. You understand?”
Lynch nodded his head and Klondike added, ‘Well just so’s you don’t forget what was said....” and pulled out his pistol and shot Lynch through both of his legs while his wife and children looked on in horror. Lynch fell to the ground, groaning in agony. Stanton bent over Lynch to make sure he was alive and said ‘You got balls; I’ll give you that.” He stood up and turned to Lynch’s daughter and said “get him to a doctor and he’ll be alright.”
At the next meeting of the Joint Council, Red Barker and Murray Humpreys appeared at the door with a dozen heavily armed Capone men.
Barker, carrying a baseball bat, stood in the cen-ter of the room and asked “Which one is Lefty Lynch’s chair?” Somebody pointed to a large leather chair in the middle of the room and Barker sat there. He looked around the room and announced that he was now running the Coal Teamsters Chauffeurs and Helpers Union Local 704 and that everything would remain just the way Lynch had left it. The only difference was that the entire trea-sury was turned over to Capone except for $1,000 which was left to cover administrative payrolls.
After that, Barker went to the fuel dealers in the district and informed them that they were only hir-ing union members and that they were giving all of their drivers a massive pay raise or else Capone would see to it that not a lump of coal was delivered downtown.
The dealers had no choice but to agree and passed the cost along to the real estate developers who consequently raised the price of office space in the area. Capone kept Lynch on the payroll to avoid a revolt in the ranks. However, Lynch never appeared at another union function.
As a reward, Capone gave Barker control over the ushers’ union with orders to exploit it to its full potential. Barker sent word to every theater owner in the city that they were to use his ushers for every political and sporting event, indoor or outdoor. He
said they would have to pay for “crowd control,” a service only his union could provide, at a rate of $10 per usher.
Movie theaters avoided the hike by paying off Barker in cash. Five dollars per usher was less expensive for them. Within weeks Barker was being paid off by every strip show, opera, ballet, sympho¬ny, prize fight and ball game held in the city. He was collecting a fortune until one prize fight promoter named Walter George decided to hold out.
Barker waited until the promoter had sold out the entire Coliseum on South Wabash Avenue for a major prize fight. Then, just before the fight was to begin, a half dozen cabs pulled up to the coliseum and let out building inspectors, fire marshals, elec-trical inspectors, plumbing inspectors and health inspectors, all led by Red Barker. Within minutes after entering the building the inspectors declared that the water was unhealthy to drink and ordered it turned off. The hot dog, beer and soda concessions were shut down by the fire marshal and the electri-cal inspector said the wiring was faulty and ordered the stadium lights shut off. During the delay, the crowd became violent. George turned to Barker and said “All right, how much you bastard?”
Barker answered that his price was up to $20 per usher and that the minimum number of ushers needed for the night was 120. Barker was paid and the fight went on.
Roger Touhy and Matt Kolb had their own plans for Chicago’s labor unions. Prohibition, gambling and the ability to avoid big political payoffs and long drawn out beer wars had made them rich. By 1932, they had the money, and the firepower to take over the entire Chicago Teamsters organization without having to split any of it with Capone.
Unlike Capone, they didn’t need to terrorize their way into each local union before reaching the Teamsters International office. They had a direct and trusted contact in the International office with Edward Chicken McFadden, an old time labor ter-rorist with deep contacts into the Teamsters International leadership.
McFadden picked up the name Chicken when he organized a shakedown operation known as the Kosher Chicken Pluckers Union. He had an arrest record dating back to 1901 that included intent to rob, police impersonation and labor slugging. He had been a business partner with a labor mobster named “Big Tim” Lynch, controlling the Chauffeurs and Teamsters Union together, until Capone had Lynch killed. Capone took over the union and chased McFadden and his contacts into the waiting arms of Roger and Tommy Touhy. In early 1932, when Capone started his major push against the unions, it was McFadden who set up a meeting between the Touhys and Patty Burrell, the Teamsters International Vice President. Burrell called a meeting of all the locals threatened by the syndicate and gave them a choice; they could stand alone against Capone and lose their unions and probably their lives, or they could band together and move their operations into Touhy’s camp.
Most of the bosses already knew Roger and decided he was the lesser of the two evils. They pitched into a $75,000 protection fund that was handed over to Tommy Touhy. In exchange, the union bosses were allowed to keep their locals, and the treasuries that came with them, and live under the Touhys’ protection.
“Tony Cermak was an example of the lowest type of machine politics that the corrupt political life of Chicago had yet produced. He was uncouth, gruff, insolent and inarticulate ... he could engage in no more intelligent discussion of the larger political issues of the day than he could of the Einstein theo-ry of relativity. He appeared to take pride in his lack of polish.” —Judge Lyle
Like Matt Kolb, Roger Touhy was a cautious man. He was not prone to mistakes or leaps in judgement, especially when it came to defying a man as dangerous as A1 Capone. In fact, the only reason he would have entered a shooting war against Capone and his massive criminal organization was based on his absolute certainty that he would win. That, and his little known agreement with Chicago’s powerful mayor, Anton Cermak, made the bootlegger positive that he could pull Capone from his throne.
“Ten Percent” Tony Cermak, the mayor of Chicago, would lead the Touhys into a war with the Capone syndicate. Tony Cermak was, as Judge Lyle noted, “not a nice man.” Instead he was an intim- idator and a bully with a violent temper, who would never walk away from a confrontation. He liked very few people and trusted no one. As his power grew, so did his paranoia. In the state house, as president of Cook County and later as mayor, Cermak used wiretaps, stolen mail, secret surveil¬lance and informants to get intelligence on the weaknesses of his enemies.
Cermak was born on May 7, 1873 in a Bohemian village about fifty miles from Prague. The family immigrated to America in 1884, settling in a Chicago slum. In 1900, the Cermak family moved to Braidwood, in southern Illinois, where the elder Cermak worked as a coal miner. At age sixteen Tony returned to Chicago alone and saw his opportunity in the rough and tumble world of ethnic politics. He organized the Bohemian community into a powerful voting machine and before he was old enough to vote himself, Tony Cermak was a political power in the Windy City.
In addition to his unquenchable thirst for power, Cermak was also a greedy man who used his power and position to grow wealthy. While still a ward politician, he formed the United Societies, a high- sounding name for what was nothing more then a shakedown operation to collect money from the hun¬dreds of pimps and saloon owners who worked along the notoriously wicked 22nd Street (which was later, oddly enough, renamed Cermak Road).
In 1902, at age twenty-six, Cermak went to the State Capitol as a member of the House of Representatives. He eventually worked his way up to Speaker of the House. This position allowed him,
if he wished, to block every piece of banking reform legislation before the House. It was a position for which the state’s bankers paid him richly. After three terms in the capitol, Cermak’s net worth was more than one million dollars. By the time he became mayor of Chicago at age fifty-six, Tony Cermak, the nearly illiterate immigrant, boasted a net worth of seven million dollars, although he never had a job that paid him more then $12,000 a year.
In 1931, Cermak was the undisputed boss of the most powerful political machine in the country, and declared himself a candidate for Mayor of Chicago. The syndicate, sensing the federal government might step in to restore order to the streets of Chicago if the hopelessly corrupt “Big Bill” Thompson was re-elected, stood solidly behind Cermak’s candidacy. Ten Percent Tony Cermak the syndicate figured, was one of them. They could live and prosper with Cermak at the helm. On election day, April 7, 1931, Cermak trounced Thompson by the largest margin ever recorded in a Chicago may- oral election. He promised the people of Chicago that he would rid their city of gangsters before the Century of Progress Exhibition opened at the World’s Fair in the summer of 1933. But Cermak wouldn’t rid Chicago of organized crime. Instead he would try to corral it, dominate it, and grow rich from it. All he had to do was give it another face, a plot the federal government had unknowingly aided by putting Capone in prison on a shaky tax charge. Capone’s imprisonment left a void in Chicago’s crime syndicate. Cermak intended to fill that void with Roger Touhy.
Touhy had told Saul Alinsky, a sociologist, writer and former member of the Joliet State Prison parole board, that in 1932 he entered a partnership with Cermak to run Chicago’s underworld. The middle man in the deal was Teddy Newberry, a thug who at one time or another had been associated with every major gang in the city and acted as Cermak’s bag man on the street.
In a meeting at the mayor’s office, Cermak and Newberry urged Touhy to wage a war with Capone’s mob. Roger was reluctant. A defensive position against the mob was one thing, but an all out war was entirely different. The syndicate could, Touhy pointed out, muster at least 500 gunmen in a few days. Cermak responded, ‘You can have the entire police department.”
Eventually, Roger agreed to go along, and Cermak sent word to his police commanders that the Touhys were to be cooperated with in the war against the syndicate.
Wars cost money. Before the shooting started Roger had to be positive that the cash he needed to support a street war was in place. Anton Cermak could help with that.
At 6:56 A.M., on December 6, 1932, Tommy Touhy led a gang of five masked men into the United States Post Office in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. They overpowered the guard and stole $500,000 in securities and cash. The getaway was easy. Two hours earlier, Cermak called the police shift com¬mander and ordered him to pull all of his men out of the area. A month later the Touhys, armed with machine guns, robbed a Minneapolis postal truck of $78,417 in bonds, cash, certificates and jewelry. Several days later they struck again, robbing a Colorado mail truck of $520,000 in cash.
During that time Cermak increased his raids on syndicate gambling dens. In one afternoon alone, Chicago police acting on Cermak’s orders impound-ed 200 syndicate slot machines plus another 300 machines stored at Gottleib and Company ware-houses. This was the same Gottleib that would later provide slots to mob-owned Las Vegas casinos. As soon as the police took the syndicate’s machines, Touhy’s men replaced them with their own one armed bandits. The moment a Mob handbook was closed Touhy’s operators were moved in to fill the gap. As always, Cermak had an ulterior motive. The raids were a calculated move to cut the syndicate’s cash flow in half so that they wouldn’t have the funding to carry on a drawn out street war.
It didn’t take the mob’s leadership a long time to figure out they had been double-crossed by Cermak, who, along with Touhy, was now putting on the dou¬ble squeeze. The quick solution for the syndicate was to kill Roger and Tommy Touhy. However killing them wouldn’t prove easy, especially now that they were surrounded by a small army of enforcers including George “Baby Face” Nelson, a proven tough guy.
Still, the syndicate’s bosses were determined to stop the flow of union treasuries to Touhy. To do that, they would have to send out a message; they had to throw a scare into the union bosses. It had to be loud and violent and it had to be someone close to Touhy.
Bill Rooney was just the right person.
William James Rooney was a labor goon who had done his first prison time back in 1907. In the years that followed Rooney would face dozens of arrests including one in 1910 for the suspected murder of Joseph Patrick Shea. Shea had been the business agent for the Chicago sheet metal workers’ union, a local which Rooney was trying to muscle his way into. He was acquitted of the murder, even though he had shot Shea dead in the middle of the union hall in front of at least 150 witnesses. No one testi-fied against him and Rooney was released to contin-ue his takeover of the union. By 1928, he not only controlled the sheet metal workers’, but the flat jan¬itors’ and the meat cutters’ unions as well. Capone sent word that he wanted half of Rooney’s labor empire. Rooney refused and Capone threatened his life. Unfazed, Rooney made his own threats and then started to move his operation and his family out to Des Plains to live under Touhy’s protection.
On the night they killed him, Rooney was still moving his belongings from his home in Chicago to a rented house in Des Plains. His wife and two chil-dren had already driven to the country.
Rooney waited outside his home while his chauf-feur sprinted down the street to retrieve his car from a rented garage about five minutes away. Draped in a heavy grey top coat and dress hat, Rooney paced back and forth on the lawn as a blue sedan pulled up to the curb. One of the men in the back seat, believed to be Paul Ricca, rolled down a window and said, “Hi Billy. ”
When Rooney stepped up to the car and bent down to look inside, a shotgun appeared in the win-dow and three blasts ripped into Rooney’s head, chest and stomach. Remarkably, the blast didn’t knock him down. Instead, Rooney grabbed the car as it sped away, but then slid slowly to his knees. He was dragged twenty-five feet before releasing his grip.
With Rooney dead, Red Barker and Murray Humpreys took over the sheet metal and the build-ing service employees’ union and looted its treasury.
Rooney’s murder was one of the last bright moments for the syndicate. For the next two years, the Touhy-Cermak-Newberry combination pounded the mob mercilessly. In fact, within three days of Rooney’s murder, the Touhys responded by killing Johnny Genaro, Capone’s new acting chief of staff, and his driver, Joey Vince, by pulling up along the side of Genaro’s car and drilling a dozen rounds of machine gun fire into both of them.
Genero died immediately but Vince managed to live until the cops arrived. A patrolman lifted the hood’s head out of a pool of blood and whispered “Who shot you? Who did this?”
For a man full of bullet holes on the threshold of death, Vince was remarkably lucid. He sat upright for a second and said ‘1 can’t describe the men. I was too confused at the moment it happened...and I would never tell you anyway, you piece of shit. ”
Then he fell back into the gutter and died.
A few days later, Roger Touhy, armed with a machine gun, walked into a meeting at the Teamsters Headquarters in Chicago. With him was his top enforcer, Willie Sharkey, and two other men. Each of them carried a machine gun and a pistol as they herded the union officials and lined them up against the wall. As more members entered the building for a special emergency meeting, they too were lined up against the wall until there were over one hundred members held hostage.
After two hours, Roger stood before the crowd and spoke.
“Listen up you mugs, we’ve come here today to clean the dago syndicate out of the Teamsters Union.”
A cheer went up across the room from the mem-bership. Roger looked over the faces in the hall and spotted a half dozen of Murray Humpreys’ enforcers including Artie Barrett whom Touhy had known from the Valley. “We thought you were a right guy” he said to Barrett. ‘What are you doing hanging around these rats for?”
‘Well, hell, I gotta eat Rog, ” Barrett said.
He let Barrett leave but pulled two of the syndi-cate’s union leaders named Goldberg and Sass into an office and told them to call Murray Humpreys and tell him to come to the building as soon as he could. When they said they couldn’t remember the number, Roger said, ‘Well, get together and think it up or we’ll give it to you right outside the door. None of you other mugs have to be afraid, we’re after Klondike O’Donnell, Camel Humpreys and Jack White and we won’t hurt anybody else.”
Out of ignorance or fear Goldberg and Sass did¬n’t place the call.
Roger rounded up his men and left the building at 11:30 in the morning, three full hours after they had arrived, taking Goldberg and Sass with him. His last words to the membership were, ‘These two are going to get theirs. ” Once again the membership exploded in cheers.
Sass and Goldberg were released two days later. They were not harmed or abused. “Actually,” said Goldberg, “they treated us well. The food was excel-lent. The conversation was good.”
Touhy’s brazen daylight raid on the heart of the syndicate’s union operation was a slap in the face for Red Barker and Murray Humpreys. The syndicate, less than several hundred in number, had ruled over Chicago’s massive unions by fear and the threat of violence. Touhy’s raid had temporarily taken away that edge and they needed to get it back.
Barker and Humpreys retaliated with a daylight drive-by shooting at Wall’s Bar-B-Que and Rib.
Wall’s was a restaurant frequented by the Touhys because Roger had developed a friendship with a waitress, Peggy Carey. In the middle of a sun-filled Saturday afternoon, four carloads of syndicate gun-men sped by the restaurant while Roger and sever¬al of his men lounged around in the parking lot. They sprayed the lot and the restaurant with machine gun fire. The Touhys returned fire but remarkably, no one was injured in the melee.
In retaliation for the shooting the Touhys struck The Dells, a large syndicate speakeasy and casino operating just inside Touhy’s territory. It was under the protection of a hood named Fred Pacelli, younger brother of future United States Congressman Bill Pacelli. Three of Roger’s best men, Willie Sharkey, Roy Marshalk and George Wilke arrived at The Dells driving Roger Touhy’s new Chrysler sedan. They walked into the casino, surrounded Pacelli and fired one round into his face and one into the small of his back. After the hood’s girlfriend, Maryanne Bruce, tried to wrestle the pis-tol out of Marshalk’s hand they fired a round into her head as well.
A few days later, the Touhys gunned down Red Barker. It was a damaging blow to the syndicate. Willie Sharkey, Roger’s most reliable killer, had rented an apartment overlooking Barker’s office and waited there patiently, perched in a window, with a water-cooled, tripod set machine gun. Sharkey killed Barker by firing thirty-six bullets into him in a matter of seconds as he walked down the street.
At almost exactly the same time across town, Touhy’s gunners, dressed as Chicago police and rid-ing in a borrowed police cruiser, killed a syndicate enforcer named “Fat Tony” Jerfitar, and his partner, Nicky Provenzano. The drive by shooting occurred as the two hoods sat in front of a store with their eyes closed, sun bathing their faces. They never knew what hit them.
Next, Touhy’s gang killed a beer peddler named James J. Kenny. He was found in an alley dead, hav-ing had the back of his head blown off. A few weeks before the murder the Touhys had taken the unusu-al step of warning Kenny not to push the syndicate’s booze inside their kingdom. He did it anyway, so they killed him.
Four days later an unknown hood, believed to be a professional killer imported from New York by Frank Nitti, was found dead on a Chicago sidewalk. His face was blown off by shotgun pellets. His frozen body was planted, literally, in a snow bank on a dead end street.
A week later, Joe Provenzo, a syndicate soldier, was killed when two men wearing police uniforms asked him his name. When he answered, they thanked him, shot him through the head and calm¬ly walked away. Five minutes later and several blocks away, John Liberto, another Nitti hood, was shot in the head at close range by the same two men.
After that the syndicate took two more hard hits. At the crack of dawn Cermak was in his office, sur-rounded by his special squad and the Chicago chief of police, planning the day’s raids against the mob’s most lucrative casinos. Over the remainder of the morning, working on information provided by Roger Touhy and Teddy Newberry, twelve mob casinos were closed down. Sixteen Chicago detectives were demoted, reassigned or fired for allowing a rising syndicate hood named “Tough Tony” Capezio to operate in their districts. The loss of sixteen cops, all bought and paid for, hurt the syndicate badly, leav-ing them with very few officers on the take.
Cermak’s pressure on the police department had scared most officers off the syndicate’s pad, while the others waited on the sidelines to see who would come out on top in this war.
The next blow came when two of the syndicate’s best gunners, Nicholas Maggio, and his partner in crime, Anthony Persico, were targeted in a retalia-tion killing for the murder of Bill Rooney. John Rooney, the business agent for the billposters’ union and brother to Bill Rooney, ambushed and killed the two men on a back stretch of road deep inside Touhy’s territory.
The syndicate was taking a pounding. Their ranks were already thinned from assaults by the federal government, not to mention the beating they were taking at the hands of the Touhy organization. To bolster their numbers the outfit’s leaders recruit¬ed members of the 42s, a gang of crazy kids from an Italian neighborhood called the Patch. This same gang would produce the syndicate’s next ruling body in the form of Sam Giancana, Marshal Ciafano, Teets Battaglia and others.
Reinforced with the 42s, the syndicate tracked down a top Touhy enforcer named Frank Schaeffler, once a contender for the world’s light heavy-weight crown. They shot him as he entered an all-night speakeasy called The Advance.
The Touhy forces struck back by killing a major syndicate pimp named Nicky Renelli and in a sepa-rate incident gunning down Elmer Russel, a bounc¬er at a syndicate bar called the Alaskan Forum Road House.
The next mob hood to die was Maurice Barrett. He was shot through the head and arm, then dropped at the front door of a neighborhood hospital where he bled to death.
Three days later the Touhys lined up three of Nitti’s men and shot them through the knees with machine guns after they tried to muscle into a meet¬ing at the Chicago house painters’ union.
The Touhys scored another big hit when they killed Danny Cain, the thirty-two-year-old president of the Chicago Coal Teamsters and brother-in-law of George Red Barker. Several men in a car followed Cain home as he left a nightclub. They pulled up alongside his car and drowned it in machine gun fire.
On a freezing Wednesday night, Willie O’Brien, a slugger employed by the Touhys, walked into a pop-ular speakeasy called the Garage. There he was jumped by three men who tried to force him outside to the rear alley where a car was waiting. O’Brien managed to fight them all off until one of the men pulled a pistol and fired a shot into O’Brien’s back. Unarmed, O’Brien was running toward the front door when another shot caught him in the leg and a third shot went into the palm of his right hand as he used it to cover his spine. A half an hour later O’Brien staggered into the waiting room of the Augustana hospital.
Officer Martin O’Malley, who grew up with Touhy and O’Brien in the Valley, arrived and inter-viewed the hood on his death bed.
‘Who shot you Billy?”
“I known them. Known them for ten years, but I won’t tell you who they are. ”
“You’re going to die Billy. Who killed you? I’ll have your revenge.”
O’Brien just shook his head and died.
Seven days later, the Touhys struck back. It was fifteen degrees below zero and snowing when a car pulled up to the curb. Several men in long coats climbed out, walked into a pool room and poured five shots into a syndicate hood named Fred Petilli who was leaning against a pool table, his back to the door. A few moments later the same car pulled up in front of The Garage nightclub where Jimmy O’Brien had been killed. A tall man, probably Basil Banghart, opened the front door to the club, tossed in a bomb and said “This is for Jimmy, you bas-tards!”
The bomb blew the place to bits but remarkably, no one was killed.
After that, Charlie O’Neill, a very young Touhy gunman, was kidnapped off the street, shot twice in the head and dumped in the middle of traffic on a busy intersection.
The Touhys responded by killing a labor goon named Nichols Razes. They shot him five times dur-ing a running gun battle in the Green Hut restau-rant owned by Razes’ brother. Charles McKenna, a Touhy labor enforcer and president of the truck painters’ union, was shot in the arm during the gun battle. He was arrested for murder as he straggled down the street, murder weapon still in hand. He was held, booked and then released for “lack of evi-dence.”
That same month, the syndicate tried to kidnap Roger Touhy’s two sons as they waited for their mother to pick them up from school in Des Plains. Somebody had to pay for that and Roger chose Eddie Gambino, a dope peddler and union goon. They caught Gambino as he was about to step out of his car. Two gunmen, stepped up to the driver’s window and opened fire. Before he bled to death, Gambino was able to pull his own pistol but dropped it before he could fire at his killers. One of the two killers, enraged at Gambino’s defiance, stepped back over to the hood’s blood-smeared face and fired at his tem-ple.
By the spring of 1933 the impossible was hap-pening: the mouse was eating the lion. The Touhys were beating the syndicate.
Tony Cermak and Teddy Newberry, probably acting on Touhy’s advice, decided that the quickest way to end the gang war was to kill the Capone outfit’s new leader, Frank Nitti. After that they figured all the other hoods would fall into line and the two-year-old war would be ended.
Nitti became boss of the Chicago mob through attrition. In the winter of 1931 the federal govern-ment started its crackdown on Capone and his oper-ation. On the freezing morning of February 28, 1931, seventy-five heavily armed United States Marshals rounded up and deported more than 125 Capone hoods who had entered the country illegally. There were no long and costly trials, appeals or delays. The gangsters were handcuffed, shoved into an airplane, flown to New York and then shipped back to Europe.
The federal government’s lethal use of deporta-tion as a weapon against organized crime had begun. A few days later, on March 13, 1931 a grand jury indicted Capone for tax evasion. Over the next twenty-four months the Treasury Department would effectively close down Capone’s syndicate by locking away the organization’s top leadership. On November 7, 1931, Al’s brother Ralph Capone would go to prison because of a tax conviction. Jake Guzak, Mops Volpe, Murray Humpreys and even Capone’s financier, Louis Lipschultz, were eventually indict¬ed and convicted on tax charges along with their boss.
The next in line was Frank Nitti.
Francisco Raffele Nitto, or Frank Nitti as he pre-ferred, was a frail, pensive little man with ulcers and a nervous twitch. He was born outside Palermo, but avoided discussing his Sicilian background, pre-ferring to have himself called “Italian.”
Unlike Capone, Nitti was fairly well educated, having trained as a chemist before arriving in Chicago by way of New York. He worked as a barber for a while in the immense Italian community but quickly turned to fencing stolen gems brought to him by his life long friend Louis Greenberg. It was Greenberg who had introduced Nitti to Capone.
The newspaper called Nitti ‘The Enforcer, ” but for those who knew the real story, the name was comical. As far as anyone knows, Nitti never killed anyone. Instead, he made his way up through the mob’s ranks because he was smart, pushy and cun-ning. While it was true that he would easily order a beating or an execution by the goon squads he con-trolled, syndicate leaders rightly considered Nitti a nervous, high-strung individual, better suited, as Paul Ricca once said, “to be the barber-fence he had been.”
At mid-morning on the day Cermak decided to have Frank Nitti killed, His Honor summoned two members of his special squad to his office, Harry Miller and Henry Lang. Miller, who had once been dismissed from the police force for trafficking nar-cotics, was the youngest of the notorious Miller brothers who headed the Valley Gang. Lang had been a bag man for former Mayor Big Bill Thompson and taught Miller the little bit he needed to know about being a crook when he came on the force by “special political appointment” back in 1927. Now, both men were detective sergeants on Cermak’s ‘Special Squad,” a group of tough cops with ques¬tionable backgrounds, brought together to carry out Cermak’s every whim.
At 10:00 in the morning on December 20, 1932, Cermak called Miller and Lang to his office. When they arrived, Teddy Newberry was already there sit-ting on the mayor’s desk smoking one of his small cigars. Newberry handed them a slip of paper with Frank Nitti’s name and office address on it and told them that it was time for Nitti to die. Miller and Lang were commissioned for the task. He said that once Nitti was dead he would pay them $15,000 each. That was good money for a pair of cops who were supposed to be making less than one hundred dollars a week.
Lang and Miller drove to Nitti’s office at the La Salle-Wacker building and flagged down a passing squad car. “We might need some help inside,” they told the driver, a rookie cop named Chris Callahan. Then the three men entered the massive office building and took the elevator to the fifth floor, room 554, where Nitti kept a cramped, three-room office. When they entered the room they found Nitti, his bodyguard and several others gathered around a desk. Lang ordered them to turn and face the wall with their hands raised over their heads. Lang then grabbed Nitti by the wrists and ordered Callahan to search him.
“When I bent down to grab Nitti’s ankles/’ Callahan said, ‘Lang fired five shots into Nitti. I leaped back. Nitti staggered toward the door and then he stopped and looked at Lang, and he said ‘What’s this for?’ and Lang shot him again. Then Lang walked to an anteroom, alone, and fired a sin-gle shot. When he came back out, he was shot through the hand.”
Nitti had been shot in the neck, leg and groin. He was taken to Bridewell Hospital, where his father- in-law, Dr. Gaetano Ronga, was called to care for him. After several hours Dr. Ronga emerged from the operating room to announce that Frank Nitti would probably die before the night was over.
Nitti lived and, while it was true that the shoot-ing had panicked what was left of Capone’s leader-ship, it was now only a matter of days before they reorganized and struck back. The good news for Touhy was that Murray Humpreys, Red Barker’s assistant, did not fight being jailed on federal income tax charges, no doubt to avoid sure death at the hands of the Touhys. The bad news was that the shooting put a far more competent and dangerous man in charge of the outfit in the form of Paul “the Waiter” Ricca. Ricca’s first move was to bring in ‘Three Fingers” Jack White to replace the murdered Red Barker.
White was a Valley Gang graduate who said he got his nickname when a brick fell on his hand on a construction site when he was a boy, crushing sev-eral fingers. It was a deformity he tried to hide with a glove, stuffing the empty fingers with cotton. In fact it’s more likely that White lost the fingers in a bungled burglary attempt where he mishandled nitroglycerin, a common mishap that probably cost Roger Touhy his right thumb as well. White recruited James “Fur” Sammons, a certified psychopath and probably the most dangerous man in Chicago, if not in the United States.
Like White, Sammons’ record was long and var-ied. In 1900 he and four others kidnaped an eleven- year-old, eighty-five-pound school girl, raped her, broke her nose, punched out one of her eyes and stabbed her in the vaginal area with a pencil. Sammons, who showed no remorse over the attack, smirked at the girl’s parents in court. He was given five years for his part in the crime and was paroled two years later. Two months after his release, Sammons was arrested for the murder of Patrick Barret, a saloon keeper. He was convicted and sen-tenced to be hanged. He was put into solitary con-finement where it was said he was driven insane by the solitude. He remained on death row until 1917 when he managed to escape and commit a series of robberies before being recaptured.
Both Three Fingers Jack White and Sammons had been paroled in 1923 by Illinois Governor Len Small after paying a small fortune in bribe money to “Porky” Dillon, a Touhy gunman who had been one of Small’s bagmen. Porky Dillon had an interesting background. He had once been sentenced to serve ten years in the state prison but managed to rig a pardon for himself from the same corrupt governor, Small.
White was a competent battle tactician. Now backed by Sammons’ psychotic brutality, he was able to take back the upper hand in the battle against the Touhys in four quick and deadly blows. The first to die under the White-Sammons regime was Teddy Newberry, the mayor’s bag man who plotted the Nitti shooting. Newberry was found lying face down in a ditch of frozen water in Porter County, Indiana. The killers were on their way to a mob burial ground, the gruesome real estate that belonged to “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn and was later passed down to Mickey “the Ant” Spilotro in the 1970s.
Next they got Touhy’s strongest ally, Paddy Barrell. Barrell was the international vice president of the Teamsters. He was killed while he and his bodyguard, Willie Marks, were vacationing in Wisconsin. Marks, a former Moran gunner, had sur-vived the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by being late for work. This time he wasn’t so lucky. The killer, believed to be Fur Sammons, caught Barrell and Marks off guard while the two were fishing knee deep in a lake. The blast from the shotgun, fired only inches from the victims, nearly took off Barrell’s head.
A second and awesome setback for the Touhys came when White and Sammons caught Matt Kolb at his saloon, the Club Morton. Kolb was standing in the hallway next to a roulette wheel. Walking up from behind him, Sammons said, “Hello Matt. ” As Kolb reached out to shake hands, Sammons grabbed his hand and arm tightly as White pulled out an automatic and poured the six shots into the little fat man. After the killers started to leave, Sammons said, “I better make sure.” He returned and fired another shot into Kolb’s head. The final round picked up the dead man’s skull and bounced it off the floor. With Kolb dead and his blackmail records gone, the price for political and police protection went through the roof, even with Cermak on their side.
The next blow came when Tommy Touhy was gunned down by Fur Sammons. It happened when Tommy and two cars of his men combed the streets of Chicago looking for Fur Sammons. As it turns out Sammons was out in an armor-plated car, looking for Tommy. The two groups spent several hours stalking each other until Tommy decided that he had had enough of the cat and mouse game and ordered his caravan to pull over at the intersection and wait for Sammons.
Several minutes later Sammons brazenly pulled up alongside them, Tommy leaned out his window, machine gun in hand and opened fire on Sammons, hitting his tires and radiator. Then, without taking his finger off the trigger, Tommy climbed out of his car and stood on the bumper and fired into Sammons’ windows. Sammons leaned out of his window and released a clip into Tommy’s legs while driving with one hand and firing with the other. A squad car from the town of River Forrest pulled onto the scene and demanded that the gunmen pull over. The Touhys answered by firing a clip off at the cops who returned fire, but by then Touhy and Sammons had disappeared into the city.
Tommy Touhy was cut up badly. This was a major setback for the Cermak-Touhy operation since Tommy was the organization’s field general. Unlike the pensive and remote Roger, Tommy was earthy and gregarious, gifted with a natural charisma that his group trusted. He was their motivator. Without him, the gang was in trouble.
Despite the recent small victories that White had scored for the syndicate it was undeniable that the mouse was still eating the lion. Against all odds, the Touhy-Cermak combination was winning the street war. The 42 Gang, the syndicate’s front-line troops, were tough and fearless, but they were wild and undisciplined and the Touhys were picking them off with ease. Other, more seasoned syndicate hoods were turning up dead at the rate of one every other day The Chicago Tribune put the number of casual-ties as high as seventy dead in one six-month peri¬od. At the same time, the federal government was closing in on the syndicate, deporting hundreds of reliable operatives and throwing most of the remaining syndicate power players in jail.
Although the Touhys had taken their share of a beating, they could hold out in the fight for a couple years more. They were smaller, tighter and more organized than the remains of Capone’s mob and they had the resources to hire the best gunmen money could buy.
Chasing the syndicate out of the Teamsters had assured them ready access to the union’s enormous pension fund, and the Teamsters’ top leadership was backing Touhy’s war against the syndicate.
Then there was Tony Cermak, who remained Touhy’s strongest ally. As long as they had Cermak on their side, they controlled the police and City Hall.
It was clear to Paul Ricca that the key to ending the war was to kill Anton Cermak. For its inability to take back the streets from Touhy, Chicago looked ridiculous in the eyes of the new national crime syn-dicate. Worse yet, the New York mobs were taking advantage of the disorder in Chicago by planting their flags in Los Angeles, Florida, Arkansas, Nevada and Texas. They had to kill Cermak. The war had to end.
“Touhy had the syndicate on the ropes and they were ready to throw in the sponge but then they killed Anton Cermak.”—Saul Alinsky
Anton Cermak had an animal’s instinct for survival, and after the failed attempt on Frank Nitti’s life, he knew his own days were numbered. In fact, a few weeks after the botched murder attempt, Louis “Short Pants” Campagna, Capone’s former bodyguard who had risen to syndicate chief, had personally planned Cermak’s murder, almost succeeding in gunning him down in an early morning ambush inside the Loop.
Cermak tried to postpone the inevitable by beef-ing up his bodyguard detail from two to five men and augmenting them with private security forces. He also took the added precaution of moving from the accessible Congress Hotel to the more secluded Morrison, where he paid for a private elevator that went nonstop to his penthouse suite.
It didn’t matter how careful he was. They were going to kill him. They had to kill him. They planned to kill Touhy, too but that could wait because they knew that wouldn’t end the war. Cermak would just replace him with another ambi¬tious hood. Murdering Cermak was the key. Kill the head and the body dies.
While it was true that there was a huge risk in killing the mayor of the second largest city in the United States, it was the key to their survival and maybe, just maybe, they would get away with it. A Chicago mayor had been gunned down in the past. Chicago’s mayor Henry Harrison was killed in October, 1893. The shooter was one Eugene Pendergast, who claimed that the mayor had reneged on a political appointment.
The syndicate knew the shooter they found would have to be a “nutcase” as they put it, but they could find a patsy to take the fall. That was the easy part. It was all a matter of timing and opportunity, both of which came together when Anton Cermak announced that he would greet President-elect Roosevelt in a public park in Florida.
Finding the patsy to take the blame for the mur-der fell to Paul the Waiter Ricca. Ricca earned his nickname while working in a restaurant owned by his mentor “Diamond Joe” Esposito, a colorful underworld character whose deep political contacts enabled him to finagle a federal license to import sugar from Cuba into the states. Sugar, and lots of it, was the primary ingredient needed to make boot¬leg whisky.
Esposito was a major player in the underworld. With the money he made by importing sugar, Esposito was able to expand his criminal holdings into the control of several vital teamster unions which he flatly refused to share with Capone. So they killed him. He was shot on the street while his wife and two small children watched.
As a reward for setting up his boss for the kill, Capone allowed Ricca to take over most of Esposito’s operations including the legal and profitable sugar importing business which Ricca handed over to a young hood named Dave Yaras from Chicago’s west side. Ricca invested in Yaras’ move to Florida and in exchange got a handsome cut of all of Yaras’ illegal ventures, including a piece of his narcotics smug-gling ring based out of Havana. Within a year after his arrival, Yaras’ rackets in south Florida and Cuba were second only to Meyer Lansky’s in size and prof-itability.
According to mob boss Sam Giancana, it was Yaras who decided that Cermak’s killer would be Giuseppe Zangara, a thirty-two-year-old bricklayer who preferred to be known by his Americanized name of Joey Zangara.
Giuseppe Zangara was a mean, near-illiterate, sullen little hood from Southern Italy. He arrived in America in 1923 and took up residence with an uncle in Paterson, New Jersey.
In September of 1929, Zangara and a syndicate hood, Tony Adgostino, were arrested for violating the prohibition law by running a 1,000-gallon still in Mount Vail, New Jersey. At the station house, Zangara claimed his name was Luigi DiBernardo and pleaded guilty, telling the police he owned the still, thus allowing the higher-ranking Adgostino to walk away from prosecution. For his troubles, Zangara was sentenced to one year and a day at Atlanta Federal Prison. During sentencing, United States Attorney Philip Forman, later a federal judge, asked ‘Your real name is Zangara, isn’t it?”leaving the implication that Zangara was no stranger to the courtroom. Off the record, the boot-legger admitted that he was Giuseppe Zangara but that he would enter prison under the assumed name of Luigi DiBernardo. Several years later, when the United States Secret Service investigated the Cermak shooting, agents compared photographs of DiBernardo the bootlegger with Zangara the assas-sin and determined that they matched. Remarkably, the agent never followed up the lead.
Paroled from prison in 1931, Zangara moved to south Florida where he kept to himself. One of his few known contacts was his roommate, an Italian immigrant named Joseph Patane who worked at Valentino’s restaurant in Miami, a mob hangout. Patane was introduced to Zangara by their landla¬dy, Constantina Vatrone, a Sicilian immigrant whose husband Petro Vatrone had been active in the mob in Florida until he was stabbed to death in 1924, in what she later told the Secret Service was “an underworld incident. ”
Zangara spent most of his time gambling and losing heavily. In need of cash, he took a position as a mule, or courier, in Dave Yaras’ heroin smuggling operation, working out of a narcotics processing plant in south Florida. Zangara’s job was to trans-port the drugs up to New York where he turned them over to distribution specialists like Ben “Bugsy” Siegel in Brooklyn, Abner “Longy” Zwillman in New Jersey and others who would pay for the delivery. In turn, Zangara was supposed to hand the cash over to Yaras.
But, according to several published reports, while Zangara was on one of his runs he made off with the mob’s money and lost it at the track. Yaras decided to kill him. Then news came from Chicago City Hall that his Honor, Anton J. Cermak, would make an appearance in Miami’s Bayfront Park to greet President-elect Roosevelt.
Anton Cermak would make a public appearance in a crowded, open area. It was a godsend for the mob. Ricca sent word down to Yaras that they were going to kill Cermak at the park and that Yaras was to line somebody up to take the fall for the murder. It was too big a hit to not leave a gunman to take the blame. The shotgun killing of Cook County’s Assistant States Attorney Billy McSwiggin a few years before had taught them a valuable lesson: always leave a fall guy.
Yaras called Zangara into his office, and gave him his two dismal choices. The mob could kill him, or Zangara could take his chances and shoot Cermak for them. Maybe the cops would kill him, or maybe the crowd would rip him to pieces, or maybe he’d get lucky. Maybe he’d get caught after he killed Cermak. He could claim he was insane and if the judge and jury bought it, at the most he might get ten maybe fifteen years in an insane asylum and then he could walk, all debts forgiven. Yaras knew what he was talking about. Florida, second only to Texas, had the most lenient laws on the books in dealing with mentally ill criminals.
Zangara chose to kill Cermak and take his chances with an insanity plea or the possibility that he could slip into the crowd and disappear.
As implausible as it might seem, Zangara may have actually believed that he was going to get away with it. After the shooting, when Secret Service agents searched Zangara’s room, they found his neatly packed travel bag sitting in the middle of his bed. Inside were his clothes, a book, The Wehman Brothers’ Easy Method for Learning Spanish
Quickly, several newspaper clippings about Roosevelt’s trip to Florida and another on the Lincoln assassination conspiracy.
Despite Zangara’s fantasies of escape, the mob had no intentions of letting him slip away and dis-appear. They needed a patsy to take the fall. They had already started painting a picture of Zangara, the conservative registered Republican, as Zangara, a radical communist who wanted to overthrow the American government. But better than a patsy, they wanted a dead patsy. According to Roger Touhy, the second after Zangara shot Cermak, a mob assassin would shoot Zangara and disappear into the crowd, leaving the Miami police, Secret Service or Cermak’s private guards with the credit for killing the Mayor’s murderer. The gunman was also there to make sure that Zangara followed through on his assignment. As Chicago newsman Jack Lait wrote, ‘had Cermak escaped Zangara’s bullets, another trigger man would have gotten him.”
The two back-up gunmen were Three Fingers Jack White and A1 Capone’s former bodyguard Frankie Rio, both of whom were picked up at the Chicago train station two days before Anton Cermak was shot. But the police had no reason to hold the two smirking hoods who explained that they were on their way to Florida for a short vacation. ‘You mugs slay me,"White said. “First you ride me to get out of town and then when I try to leave, you want me to stay.”
The next day, down in Florida, Giuseppe Zangara went to the Davis pawn shop in downtown Miami and spent eight dollars on a .32 calibre revolver and ten bullets. While still in the shop, Zangara placed five bullets in the chamber and kept five in his pock-et and then began stalking Anton Cermak. Zangara walked to the Bostick Hotel because he had read in the papers that the hotel’s owners, Horace and May Bostick, were close friends of Cermak and expected him to drop by that evening before he went to Bayfront Park. Zangara went to the hotel, which was actually more of a rooming house than anything else. He paid his dollar for the night and asked to see all of the exits and entrances. Then he went to his room where he proceeded to sit on the edge of the bed, with the door open, and stare down the hallway toward the front door of the hotel, waiting for Anton Cermak to arrive so he could kill him.
At 5:30, after six hours of waiting, Zangara prob-ably realized that Cermak wasn’t coming and left the hotel by a back door. He quickly walked several blocks to a cigar manufacturing plant owned by Andrea Valenti, a Sicilian immigrant. Zangara, Valenti and two other men, Steve Valenti and Lorenzo Grandi, left the factory at about 7:30 and made their way to Bayfront Park. But they miscal-culated how many people would turn out for the event. By the time they arrived at the park, at about eight o’clock, 10,000 spectators filled it to standing room only. Slowly, and sweating profusely, Zangara and the others obnoxiously pushed and shoved through the crowd trying desperately to make their way to the bandstand.
At about that same time, Anton Cermak was preparing to leave his hotel room for the park. He was dismally sick with peritonitis causing him to double over in pain. A lesser man would have can-celed the night’s engagement but Tony Cermak had always been extraordinary. As he prepared to put on his light blue and white jacket, a bodyguard handed him a bulky black bullet-proof vest but Cermak did-n’t want it. It was too humid and he was weak. It was a mistake that would cost him his life.
Cermak arrived at the park about a half-hour before Franklin Roosevelt’s car pulled up to the bandstand. At about the same time, Zangara pushed and shoved his way up to the second row of chairs.
F.D.R. placed himself on the car’s rear seat. He took a small black microphone and made a short speech as a flood light beamed down on him in his white suit. He was the perfect target, but Zangara, less than thirty-five feet away, never fired.
When Roosevelt’s speech ended, he turned and looked up at the stage and saw Cermak sitting in the front row and waved ‘Tony! Come on down here. ”
Smiling broadly, Cermak rose from his chair and walked toward F.D.R., his bodyguards stepping up to join him, but Cermak told them to stay where they were. It was unseemly, he said, for the Mayor of Chicago to be photographed with more body¬guards than the President-elect.
The two men shook hands and chatted for less than three minutes, then Cermak stepped away from the car and turned to his right and then, for some unknown reason, walked a dozen steps away from the stage and toward the place where Zangara was waiting.
At that moment, Zangara leaped out of the crowd and sprang onto an open seat, drew his revolver from his trouser pocket, fired five rounds directly at Cermak. One bullet hit Cermak in the right armpit and pushed its way to just above his heart and then drove itself into his right lung, causing the mayor to grab his chest with both arms and slowly sink to his knees.
Several other bystanders were struck by bullets, yet Zangara maintained, repeatedly, that he never got off more than three rounds from his five-round pistol. Remarkably, police recovered seven bullets from the scene.
Just minutes after the shooting, United States Representative-elect Mark Wilcox and Chicagoan Robert Gore, told a radio newsman they were stand-ing a few feet from Zangara. Gore said, “He was shooting at Cermak. There is no doubt about that. The killer waited until Mr. Roosevelt sat and then fired. ”
Based on Gore and Wilcox’s statement, reports that Cermak had been shot by Chicago gangsters went out over the wires at once. But after the first day, there was no other mention of gangsters being involved in the shooting. Later, when Roosevelt waited in the halls of the Jackson Memorial Hospital where Cermak was being treated, he point¬ed out that not one of the six persons hit by bullets were near him when they were shot. In fact they were at least thirty feet away and only two or three feet away from Cermak and, added Roosevelt, Zangara had not fired off a single shot at him while he had a full eight minute window during his speech. Roosevelt concluded that Zangara was “a Chicago gangster” sent to kill Cermak.
In 1959, at his last parole hearing, Roger Touhy said that when Zangara started shooting, Jack White and Frankie Rio, both wearing Cook County Deputy Sheriff’s badges, waited until Cermak fell to his knees and then stepped out from the crowd and fired a .45 caliber pistol at Zangara but the shot missed and nicked several bystanders instead. Before they could get off a second shot, the crowd had leaped onto Zangara, in effect saving his life.
From his hospital bed Anton Cermak insisted that he was Zangara’s target. When his secretary arrived from Chicago, Cermak said to him, “So you’re alive! I figured maybe they’d shot up the office too.”
Cermak was in relatively good condition on the first few nights in the hospital and issued his own news bulletins on his condition. By the third day, however, colitis complicated Cermak’s wounds and caused him great pain. At one point Cermak’s intestinal trouble made his temperature rise to 101.6. On February 27, Cermak contracted pneumo-nia and died. Giuseppe Zangara went on trial for murder.
Zangara’s three lawyers appointed by the state didn’t speak Italian, had never tried a criminal case and none of them had ever argued before a jury. It was their recommendation that Zangara plead guilty. When he did, the court sentenced him to death less than two months after he fired the fatal shots that killed Anton Cermak.
His last few days were dismal. The only people to visit him in jail were the prison chaplains, whom he cursed and threw out regularly. Just before he was walked out to the death chamber, the prison warden asked Zangara if he was part of an organized group that plotted to kill Cermak “No. I have no friends. It was my own idea. ”
Then the little murderer strutted down the hall and sat himself in the electric chair, but he was so short his feet didn’t touch the ground. Just before the guards placed a hood over his head Zangara turned to the warden, smirked and yelled “Viva Italia! Viva comorra!”
The word comorra was one of many Italian terms for the Mafia. Then he leaned back and waited. The room was filled with an uncomfortable silence as 2,300 volts snuffed out Zangara’s strange life.
Ed Kelly, Chicago’s next mayor, was the kind of city official that Frank Nitti could live with. When reporters were looking to tell Kelly that he was Chicago’s new mayor, they found him gambling at a mob owned race track in Havana. When asked if he thought that the syndicate had anything to do with Cermak’s killing, Kelly replied “Boys, from now on, there is no such thing as organized crime in the city of Chicago.”