The brand new 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr’s combination of modern design, incredible horsepower, and art deco luxury interior was named by the New York’s Museum of Modern Art as the “First Successful Streamlined Car.” But on November 8, 1939 the once pristine hood of a Lincoln-Zephyr was crushed upon impact at the corner of Ogden Avenue and Rockwell Street in Chicago. The left front of the car looked like a wadded up mass of tin foil. Neighbors were slowly pulled out of their houses by the magnetic force of their curiosity. They circled the wreckage as the police arrived. What they found was a car riddled with bullets. The driver’s side glass window had two bullet holes that emitted thousands of tiny cracks in all directions. Inside the car, police found a well-dressed man slumped almost horizontal in the front seat. His once light colored suit was now soaked with his blood. A trickle of which slowly slid down his cheek from his open mouth. His eyes were wide open but they no longer contained any spark of life. In his coat pocket was a Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol that was loaded but had not been fired. Upon further investigation, they also found a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a magazine clipping of a poem that read:
“The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power,
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.”
He was known as Easy Eddie and he was one of Al Capone’s lawyers. However Eddie was already a successful lawyer when he began working for Capone. In St. Louis, Eddie represented an inventor named Owen P. Smith who made the first mechanical rabbit to be used at dog races. Eddie helped Smith get his designs patented and then later used his legal skills to gain full rights to the invention. Eddy got a percentage of the gate money in exchange for the use of the mechanical rabbit. At the time, gambling on dogs was big business and Eddie was one of the beneficiaries. He and his wife Selma, along with their three children bought a nice home in St. Louis that had a swimming pool and a family car. But the marriage didn’t last and Eddie divorced his wife and took his son Edward to Chicago. He left behind Selma and his two young daughters Patricia and Marilyn. In Chicago, Eddie’s success in the dog and horse racing business continued. Successful businesses like this would need protection and at this time in Chicago Al Capone’s gang essentially owned the city. Eddy became one of Capone’s trusted lawyers and helped legally defend the famous gangster. Capone’s empire was built on racketeering, bootlegged alcohol, gambling rings, and prostitution. Eddie was paid extremely well for his legal services but deep inside he worried about his son Edward.
For reasons still disputed, Eddie wanted to do the right thing. He met with Frank J. Wilson of the treasury department and agreed to help the government convict Capone of tax evasion. He was believed to have given the government key financial records of Capone’s operation and also how to decipher them. Finally, Eddie was able to tell the government that Capone had bribed the jury in his trial which resulted in the judge changing the jury at the last moment. In The People v. Al Capone, Capone was convicted and sentenced to 11 years at Alcatraz Penitentiary in 1933.
Did Eddy’s conscience finally change his ways? I think it is more than likely he wanted his son to grow up outside of this environment. He encouraged his son to join the military. In 1937, Easy Eddie’s son was accepted to the Annapolis Naval Academy in Maryland. Here Edward picked up the nickname “Butch”. On February 20, 1942, Butch was given what seemed like an impossible mission. Japanese bombers were swarming like flies around the navel carrier the USS Lexington. Low on fuel and ammunition, Butch made four passes directly through the Japanese formation under heavy gunfire. The Japanese bombers were scattered and Butch made it back to the carrier. He not only saved the day but had shot down five Japanese planes and for his valor he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He also was the first U.S. serviceman in World War II and the first pilot ever to be decorated with the Medal of Honor. Butch, son of a Capone lawyer, became an instant celebrity. Though uncomfortable with all the fuss, parades and accolades followed him wherever he went. Sadly, in 1943, Butch led a squadron of night fighters and never returned home. At age 29, he died a hero serving his country. Butch’s father Easy Eddie, would have been proud.
So here we have the story of a father known as Easy Eddie and his son called Butch. The father, in the end, did the right thing by testifying against Al Capone. But the mob doesn’t forget, and he paid for it with his life on the corner of Ogden Avenue and Rockwell Street. The items in his pocket: a Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol, the rosary, the crucifix, the medallion, and the prophetic poem lead me to believe he knew his past would eventually catch up with him. As for his son Butch, his hometown tried to name a high school and a bridge after him but his mother wouldn’t allow it because she felt all the troops were heroes. President Kennedy, who sought to end organized crime, was the one who finally succeeded in a memorial for Butch in 1963.
So the next time you fly in or out of Chicago’s largest airport think about this story. Why? Because Easy Eddie’s famous son was named Edward “Butch” O’Hare and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport bears their family name!