Edward J. O'Hare
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Edward Joseph O'Hare (he used "Edward" later in life), aka "Easy Eddie" (September 5, 1893 – November 8, 1939), was a lawyer in St. Louis and later in Chicago, where he began working with Al Capone, and later helped federal prosecutors convict Capone of tax evasion. In 1939, a week before Capone was released from Alcatraz, O'Hare was shot to death while driving. He was the father of Medal of Honor recipient Butch O'Hare, for whom O'Hare Airport is named.
Early life in St. Louis
Edward Joseph O'Hare, known to friends and family as E.J., was born on September 5, 1893 in St. Louis to first-generation Irish-American parents Patrick Joseph O’Hare and Cecelia Ellen Malloy O’Hare. The Irish name "O'Hare" meant, in Irish, "sharp, bitter, angry." On June 4, 1912, E.J. O'Hare married Selma Anna Lauth, a native of St. Louis, born on November 13, 1890. She traced her heritage to Germany. E.J. and Selma started their family in an apartment above Selma's father's grocery store in the Soulard neighborhood. They had three children: Edward ("Butch"), born in 1914; Patricia, born in 1919, and Marilyn, born in 1924.
E.J. passed the Missouri bar exam in 1923 and joined a law firm. From 1925 O'Hare operated dog tracks in Chicago, Boston and Miami. Edward J. O'Hare, as a lawyer, represented the inventor Owen P. Smith, high commissioner of the International Greyhound Racing Association, who patented a mechanical running rabbit for use in dog racing. As a result of this lucrative work for Smith, O'Hare moved his family in 1930 into a new house — with a swimming pool and a skating rink — in Holly Hills. During summers, the O'Hare family had escaped the St. Louis heat to river camps on the Meramec and Gasconade rivers. E.J. had given Butch a .22-caliber rifle. Plinking at cans and bottles tossed in the river, Butch became quite a marksman. It was also during this time that E.J. became fascinated with flying, even hitching a ride in Charles Lindbergh's mail plane. O'Hare took his first job as lead pilot of an air mail route operated by Robertson Aircraft Co. of Lambert Field in St. Louis. E.J. then flew commercially whenever possible, and he found chances for his teenage son to briefly take the controls. As a result, his son Butch, the later Medal of Honor recipient, best known for his extreme bravery as a U.S. naval aviator in World War II, became quite a marksman and familiar with planes.
When Owen Patrick Smith died, O'Hare represented the administratrix of Smith's estate, Hannah M. Smith. E.J. began to expand his business interests from the St. Louis levee to Chicago.
One day in the 1920s E.J. came home to find his son, Butch, sprawled on a couch reading books and munching banana layer cake and doughnuts. The father decided that his boy was showing signs of laziness and enrolled him at Western Military Academy in Alton,IL.
Divorced from his wife Selma in 1927, O'Hare moved to Chicago. Selma stayed in St. Louis with her two daughters Patricia and Marilyn, while Butch went to the U. S. Naval Academy.
In Chicago, O'Hare met Al Capone, the man who ran Chicago during Prohibition. When Francesco de Pinedo performed his famous transatlantic flight in 1927, Capone was among the first to push forward and shake his hand upon his arrival in Chicago. Capone's was the dominant gang in the city. An entrepreneur new in town, as E.J. was, had to choose a gang, just as today he would have to choose a business insurer. E.J. later fell in love with secretary Ursula Sue Granata, the sister of a State Representative with ties to the Mob. The engagement went on for seven years because, as Catholics, O'Hare's divorce from his wife Selma made it impossible for the couple to have a church wedding. However, O'Hare was hopeful that a request for a dispensation from the Vatican would come through by 1940.
O'Hare and Capone began collaborating in business and in law. O'Hare made a second fortune through his ties to Capone. In 1930, E.J. asked John Rogers, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to arrange a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). John Rogers organized a meeting with IRS agent Frank J. Wilson. After lunch, E.J. agreed to turn over key financial records of Capone's. The IRS's overall goal was to wreck Capone financially by destroying his bootlegging business. Agent Frank J. Wilson's job was to convict Al Capone of tax evasion.
E.J. O'Hare played a key role in Capone's prosecution for tax evasion. Frank J. Wilson, then government investigator of the Internal Revenue Service (and later Chief of the U.S. Secret Service between 1937 and 1946) revealed in the 26 April 1947 issue of Collier's magazine how Capone was convicted: "On the inside of the gang I had one of the best undercover men I have ever known: Eddie O'Hare." By 1930, E.J. O'Hare was working undercover for the Internal Revenue Service of the Treasury Department. It is believed O'Hare directed investigator Wilson to the Capone bookkeeper who became a key witness at the 1931 trial, and he also helped break the code with which Capone's bookkeepers kept ledgers at various gambling houses throughout the 1920s. During the Capone trial, O'Hare tipped the government that Capone had fixed the original jury that was to hear the case in the court of Judge James Wilkerson. Thus alerted, Judge Wilkerson switched juries with another federal judge just as the Capone tax trial was set to begin (depicted in the 1987 film "The Untouchables").
Al Capone was found guilty on five of twenty-two counts and sentenced to eleven years in a federal prison. Al Capone arrived at Alcatraz in August 1933.
Suffering from syphilitic dementia, Al Capone began to deteriorate mentally during his imprisonment in Alcatraz. As a result, at the end of 1939, Capone was due for release from federal prison any day.
O'Hare was shot and killed on Wednesday, November 8, 1939, while driving in his car. He was 46. That afternoon he reportedly left his office at Sportsman's Park in Cicero with a cleaned and oiled Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol, something unusual for him. O'Hare got into his black 1939 Lincoln Zephyr coupe, and drove away from the track. As he approached the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell, a dark sedan rolled up beside him and two shotgun-wielding henchmen opened up on him with a volley of big-game slugs. Edward Joseph O'Hare was killed instantly. As his Lincoln crashed into a post at the side of the roadway, the killers continued east on Ogden, where they soon became lost in other traffic. Several months after O'Hare was gunned down, Frank Nitti, Capone's second in command, married Ursula Sue Granata, O'Hare's fiancée.
In 2010, Alderman Ed Burke asked the Chicago Police Department Cold Case Squad to re-examine O'Hare's murder in light of a new book, Get Capone, which made allegations about the crime.
- Edward "Butch" O'Hare - E. Joseph O'Hare's son and Medal of Honor recipient.
- Cancino, Alejandra (2010-01-13). "Edward J. O'Hare slaying: Chicago police to revisit 1939 shooting of ace pilot's father". Chicago Tribune (Chicago: Tribune Co.). Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- "Fateful Rendezvous: The Life of Butch O'Hare" by Steve Ewing, John B. Lundstrom, 1997, ISBN 1-55750-247-1
- Cancino, Alejandra (13-01-2010). "Edward J. O'Hare slaying: Chicago police to revisit 1939 shooting of ace pilot's father". Chicago Tribune (Chicago: Tribune Co.). Retrieved 2010-01-13.