Roger Touhy (Touhy the Terrible)

Does MPHS have photographs: Newspaper photos
Address in Mount Prospect: River Road in Des Plaines
Birth Date: 1898
Death Date: December 16, 1959
Date: 1922
Spouse: Clara Touhy
Children: Roger Jr., Thomas
Interesting information on life, career, accomplishments
Roger Touhy was reputed to be boss of the organized crime syndicate in the Chicago area during prohibition. Although most of the information on him is sensationalistic and it is hard to tell how much is real and what is myth. Supposedly, Al Capone ran the underworld in most of Chicago and much of the southern suburbs while the northwestern suburbs were reportedly under the control of Touhy the Terrible. Toughy was the youngest son of a family with eight children. His father was a police officer and his mother died when Touhy was ten years old when there was an explosion in the family’s kitchen. He operated a car dealership in Chicago for a number of years, but decided to go into bootlegging to make more money. He reportedly bought into a distribution business with a man named Matt Kolb, who was later gunned down in a Morton Grove speakeasy. Touhy started out selling beer to road houses and saloons in the small towns north and northwest of Chicago. Supposedly, he brought in over $1million in beer sales in the 1920s. He was said to have gained public support, or at least a blind eye, by donating generously to different organizations, schools and social clubs. He lived in Oak Park, but after his first child was born he moved onto a farm in Des Plaines near the Maryville Academy. According to legend, he later extended his bootlegging to this farm but could not conceal the waste products or the smell of his operations. To take care of this problem, he invited his neighbors to go on a three week trip to Europe. While they were away, he had an engineering company come in and construct an underground drainage system that would carry all the waste from his land, under their property and empty it into a creek that led into the Des Plaines River. He was eventually arrested and out into prison. He was convicted of kidnapping a man named John (Jake the Barber) Factor, who was a friend of Al Capone and was wanted in England on fraud charges. Touhy denied the charges and claimed that he was framed by Al Capone’s gang. In 1942, after being in prison for nine years, he broke out, although he was recaptured shortly. He was eventually released on parole after serving almost 26 years in the Stateville Penitentiary. Twenty two days after he was released he was gunned down while standing on his sister’s front porch. While much of the story about Touhy may be mostly sensationalism, there are reasons to believe that there was sale of alcohol in the northwest suburbs. Many of the towns had strong immigrant populations and much of prohibition was a thinly veiled anti-immigrant policy, which was strongly resented by older, established immigrant communities who had little or no interest in abiding by it. Areas like Mount Prospect were also still largely agricultural with little law enforcement and what there was, was usually local.