Edward J. O'Hare
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Edward Joseph O'Hare, 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 International 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. 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. 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 an able 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 a competent 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 eating 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, Illinois.
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 Western Military 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 Chicago Outfit was the dominant gang in the city.
O'Hare became engaged to Ursula Sue Granata, a secretary, the sister of a Mob-affiliated Illinois state representative. The engagement went on for seven years because they were Catholics, and the Church would not recognize O'Hare's divorce. Thus they could not have a church wedding. However, O'Hare was hopeful that a request for a dispensation from the Vatican would be granted by 1940.
O'Hare and Capone began collaborating in business and in law. O'Hare made a second fortune through his ties to Capone.
But in 1930, O'Hare turned against Capone. He asked John Rogers, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to arrange a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which was trying to convict Capone of tax evasion. Rogers organized a meeting with IRS agent Frank J. Wilson. O'Hare subsequently played a key role in Capone's prosecution and conviction. Agent Wilson (also Chief of the U.S. Secret Service between 1937 and 1946) said later:
On the inside of the gang I had one of the best undercover men I have ever known: Eddie O'Hare."
It is believed O'Hare directed investigator Wilson to the Capone bookkeeper who became a key witness at the 1931 trial, and also helped break the code used in the ledgers by Capone's bookkeepers. At the start of Capone's trial in the court of Judge James Wilkerson, O'Hare tipped the government that Capone had fixed the jury. Thus alerted, Judge Wilkerson switched juries with another federal trial before the Capone trial began. (This incident was depicted in the 1987 film The Untouchables.)
Suffering from syphilitic dementia, Capone deteriorated mentally during his imprisonment in Alcatraz. As a result, at the end of 1939, Capone was due for early release.
O'Hare was shot and killed on Wednesday, November 8, 1939, while driving in his car at age 46. That afternoon, when he left his office at Sportsman's Park racetrack in Cicero, Illinois, he was reportedly carrying a cleaned and oiled Spanish-made .32-caliber semi-automatic pistol, something unusual for him. O'Hare drove away from the track in his black 1939 Lincoln-Zephyr coupe. At the intersection of Ogden and Rockwell, two shotgun-wielding gunmen in a dark sedan drove alongside and fired a volley of big-game slugs. O'Hare was killed instantly. His Lincoln crashed into a roadside post, while the killers continued east on Ogden and were lost in traffic. No arrest was ever made.
In popular culture
- In the 2010-2014 HBO series Boardwalk Empire, the character of Mike D'Angelo played by Louis Cancelmi is based on Edward J. O'Hare. In the last season he is shown to be an undercover agent who helped gather evidence to convict Al Capone on Tax evasion.
- The story of 'Easy Eddie', and his son, are mentioned in the "Payback" chapter of the international bestselling novel Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror, by American author Steve Alten, published 1996.
- Collier's magazine, 26 April 1947
- 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. Archived from the original on 2010-01-30. 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.