Chicago Tribune November 9, 1939
Edward J. O’Hare, wealthy resident of Sportsman’s Park race track in Stickney, was shot to death in gangland fashion yesterday afternoon as he raced his automobile north-east in Ogden avenue, near Rockwell street, in a futile effort to outdistance his assassins. The killers drew up alongside, fired two shotgun charges into O’Hare’s head and neck, then sped away.
The slaying presented a puzzle whose outer edges touched the gang kingdom of Al Capone, the world of horse and dog racing, and stretched 13 years into the past when O’Hare was convicted in connection with the collapse of the George Remus bootlegging syndicate.
Triple Inquiry Started.
Police and state’s attorney’s investigators last night were pressing three inquiries, one of which they believe may solve the slaying. They said there are three major possibilities:
- 1. That O’Hare quarreled with certain associates over the proceeds of the prosperous racing meet at Sportsman’s Park, which closed last Saturday. The dispute, they believe, may reached an impasse shortly before the slaying, the killers trailing O’Hare from the track’s offices at 33d and Laramie avenue.
2. That the underworld suspected him of having given information to the federal government. A memorandum found on the body indicated of a close association between O’Hare and the federal bureau of investigation.
3. That the slaying and the imminent release from prison of Al Capone might be connected. It was recalled that Cicero and Stickney, where O’Hare’s interests have expanded so rapidly since 1932, are Capone’s old strongholds.
Edward J. O’Hare, operator of Sportsman’s Park race track, ① was slain by a shotgun blast from an auto as his car sped northeast in Ogden avenue, between Talman avenue and Rockwell street ② . Police believe the shooting was an outgrowth of a quarrel earlier in the afternoon at the park.
Worth Million, Says Aid.
Police recalled that O’Hare operated Capone’s Hawthorne dog track in Stickney from 192S thru 1930. He was known as a shrewd business man. was outspoken against hoodlums in recent years, and may have made many enemies. His wealth was estimated by a business associate yesterday at more than a million dollars.
The recklessness of the assassination convinced police it was the swift aftermath of a quarrel. The killers apparently acted in sudden rage, choosing heavily traveled Ogden avenue for their crime and using the noisiest possible weapon. This thoroughfare is constantly patrolled by police.
Investigators were attempting to learn the names of all persons who saw O’Hare at the Sportsman’s Park office, where he spent the early hours of the afternoon winding up business affairs preparatory to leaving for Florida. He was to have operated a track during the winter months. The killers could have trailed him toward the loop, delaying the shooting until they reached a stretch of street comparatively empty of automobiles.
Suggests Federal Tieup.
The memorandum which suggested a tieup with the government apparently had been left for him by an employe. It was signed “Toni” and read:
- Mr. Woltz phoned and wants to know if you or Mr. Beckman know anything about Clyde Nimerick. He said you are to call Mr. Bennett.
Clyde H. Nimerick. known as a bank robber and liquor dealer, was identified in 1932 as the leader of a gang that robbed the Interstate bank of Kansas City of $45,000. George Woltz is a special agent of the federal bureau of investigation. There is another agent named Bennett. The agent in charge of the Chicago office of the FBI refused to comment, but expressed interest in the slaying.
The Mr. Beckman mentioned in the note is believed to be Kinky Beckman of St. Louis, O’Hare’s chauffeur and bodyguard. He is being sought.
The Capone clew arose from knowledge of definite activity among remnants of his gang, in anticipation of their former czar’s pending release on Nov. 19 after serving more than six years for income tax evasion. It was regarded as possible that some one close to Capone had decreed O’Hare’s death because of his growing power in Cicero and Stickney.
There were no witnesses to the actual slaying. One witness told police that O’Hare’s car and another passed him at high speed about two blocks away from the scene of the shooting. The shots were fired just after the victim’s expensive coupe had sped past Talman avenue.
Interior of O’Hare’s auto after slaying. Two blasts were fired from killer’s close quarters, making two large holes in front door glass of auto. Edward J. O’Hare, race track president, who was shot to death by assassins as he drove on Ogden avenue.
Two Charges Buckshot.
Two charges of buckshot passed thru the glass of the car’s left window and struck O’Hare. His car bounded over the curb, side wiped a trolley pole and careened down the street car tracks until it clashed against an electric light pole. The front of the coupe was demolished.
Several calls for police reported at first that there had been an automobile crash. It was not until 15 minutes after the shooting, which occurred at 3:20 p.m. that police were informed there had been a murder. None of the witnesses could describe the assassins’ car.
O’Hare’s body was identified half an hour after the slaying by Aaron Harvey, who had operated the photo finish camera at Sportsman park during the recent meeting. Harvey was held several hours when he appeared reluctant to answer questions. Another witness said he thought some one had jumped from O’Hare’s car at Talman avenue just before the shooting. Police thought this might have been Beckman.
Pistol on Car Seal.
On ihe seat beside the body was found a .32 caliber automatic pistol of Spanish manufacture. It had not been fired. Associates said it never had been O’Hare’s policy to go armed except when carrying large sums of money. He had only $53 in his wallet at the time of his death.
In addition to the money, police found a number of memoranda and notes listing the names of girls end women. These were being traced last night.
Capt. Daniel Gilbert, chief investigator for the state’s attorney’s office, was particularly anxious last night to question the sister of a state legislator. She had been friendly with O’Hare over a period of two years. The legislator promised to surrender her by 11 p.m., but when that hour passed and the young woman had not appeared Capt. Gilbert ordered her arrest.
In addition to the notes bearing the women’s names O’Hare’s pockets contained others indicating he was concerned about current religious trends. With these were a crucifix, a rosary, and a religious medallion.
A notation bearing the name of Leo Seltzer, head of the Roller Derby company, 23 East Jackson boulevard, led to the information that O’Hare had been on his way to the Illinois Athletic club, where he was to have signed contracts for operation of roller skating Derbies in the south this winter.
Maid Reports Threat.
More than four hours after the slaying the investigation took a new turn when police were called to the imposing home O’Hare sometimes occupied at 221 Franklin road, Glencoe. A colored maid informed them an anonymous telephone caller had just warned her to leave the house; that it would be blown up during the night.
More than a year ago, Glencoe police said, they were requested to watch the house and to record license numbers nf automobiles that parked near it. Who made this request was not divulged.
The Glencoe house, which was rarely, occupied either by O’Hare or his family, was one of three establishments he maintained. In Florida he had an oceanside villa near the Miami Kennel club, in which he was a stockholder. Near Taunton, Mass, he occupied a penthouse. He was interested in the Bristol County Kennel club, a dog racing track, near Taunton.
Yacht Kept in East.
O’Hare also owned a yacht, which he kept at Fairhaven, Mass., during the summer. When in Chicago, he usually stayed at the Illinois Athletic club.
In addition to his race track holdings, O’Hare was interested in an insurance company and two advertising concerns which occupy offices in the Wrigley building. The insurance business is being liquidated because O’Hare no longer had time to devote to it. The other enterprises are Emmas Parrish Lovtjoy, Inc., and Koenigsberg, Edlin & O’Hare.
The O’Hare in the last firm is the slain man’s cousin, Elias J. O’Hare. Robert Edlin estimated Edward O’Hare’s wealth at well over a million dollars.
The man who was slain yesterday began his career nearly 20 years ago as an attorney in St. Louis. He had a large practice among liquor dealers, defending them in the federal courts. Later he became counsel for a dog track in Madison county, Illinois, across the Mississippi river from St. Louis and finally became its manager.
Involved in Remus Ring.
In 1924 O’Hare became involved with the national prohibition act. He was indicted on a charge of helping to withdraw medicinal whisky from a bonded warehouse of the Joe Daniel distillery. Named with him was Mrs. Imogene Remus, wife of George Remus, Cincinnati’s “king of the bootleggers.”
Remus, who later killed his wife, was the government’s witness against O’Hare and a dozen other defendants. O’Hare was convicted in Indianapolis, but the Circuit Court of Appeals later reversed the lower court. He never was retried.
While he was associated with the Madison Kennel club in 1928 O’Hare attracted the attention of Capone men, who persuaded him to come to Chicago. Here he was made manager of Capone’s Hawthorne dog track, just south of the present Sportsman’a park. He and his track officials and ticket sellers were arrested several times in 1929 when State’s Attorney Swanson was attempting to drive out dog racing. When Sportsman’s. was opened in 1932. O’Hara became president. Johnny Patton, the “boy mayor of Burnham,” is secretary-treasurer the track.
O’Hare repeatedly told police assigned to the track to keep hoodlums away. “Hoodlums are no good; they are deadbeats and trouble makers and I want them kept out,” he declared, according to one of the men who was on duty at Sportsman’s during the meeting Just closed.
O’Hare was almost never known io use profanity or slang. He was athletic in his habits, riding and playing golf almost every day. He was fond of pitching horseshoes.
Investigators who visited the Glencoe home found a framed verse over O’Hare’s desk. Its wording, grimly prophetic in the light of the afternoon’s events, follows:
- The clock of life is wound but once
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop.
At a late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own;
Love, live, toil with a will.
Place your faith in tomorrow.
For the clock, may then be still.
Detectives ho knew O’Hare said he had adopted a philosophy concerning gangsters and hoodlums. It was:
- You can make money thru business associations with them and you will run no risk if you don’t associate with them. Keep it on a business basis and there is nothing to fear.
Photo-diagram of scene of Ogden avenue between Talman avenue and Rockwell street after Edward J. O’Hare, president of Sportsman’s Park race track, had been shot to death in gangland fashion. O’Hare’s car jumped curbing after he was hred upon from another auto and crashed into pole at Rockwell street
Chicago Tribune November 14, 1939
State’s Attorney Courtney last night made public the letter of warning thru which Edward J. O’Hare, the Al Capone syndicate’s millionaire front man, learned that Capone was reported to have sworn “to have” O’Hare’s life.
This warning, which was revealed exclusively yesterday by The Chicago Tribune, is believed to have reached O’Hare in October, 1937. Thus for two years before his shotgun assassination last Wednesday O’Hare lived in the knowledge that two convicts released from Alcatraz prison said they had heard Capone rage against him.
Warning Passed On.
These ex-convicts gave their information to a friend of O’Hare, who in turn wrote it to another friend, one who was close to the doomed Capone front man. This second person passed on to O’Hare the part of the letter that contained the convicts’ story.
In making the letter public, Courtney described it as one of the most amazing warnings ever turned up in a gangland assassination. Courtney said:
- Gangster killings almost invariably are followed by absolute silence. No one will talk. There never is a scrap of evidence. There is no cooperation from the underworld; little from any one,
Altho we don’t know who wrote this warning, it stands as one of the most interesting clews ever to come into our hands in a case of this kind.
Portions of letter and envelope found in hideout of Edward J. O’Hare, slain race track head. The letter was sent to O’Hare in 1937, apparently by a friend who had received it from a man who signed himself “George.” According to the letter. “George” had talked with two convicts released from Alcatraz prison while Al Capone was there. The letter was found by Coroner Walsh’s men and made public by State’s Attorney Courtney.
Seek Author of Letter.
Courtney said efforts are under way among O’Hare’s many friends and associates to identify the writer. Records are being searched in an effort to identify the two Alcatraz convicts who heard Capone voice the threats.
The state’s attorney made public the letter soon after summoning Municipal Judge Eugene J. Holland for questioning at noon today. Judge Holland has been disclosed as an associate of O’Hare in a south side real estate enterprise. He will be asked about his deals with O’Hare, who was president of Sportsman’s park race track.
Courtney also announced he will call John Patton, “boy mayor” of Burnham and another O’Hare associate, for questioning. Patton, who once was Capone’s vice overlord in Burnham, Cicero, and Stickney, was the largest stockholder in Sportsman’s Park.
Note Tells of Disputes.
The portion of the warning letter which electrified investigators read as follows (punctuation and spelling unchanged):
- Here is another matter, of importance, I would like for you to take care of at once just recently a couple of fellows were returned to this place from Alcatraz, these fellows are friends of mine, they know my friendship, and connection, with Ohare, and for that reason, they told me of remarks and threats, that Capone, is making, regarding Ohare, seems that Mr. Dago, is disgusting because Ohare, wont stand to be pushed around by his Majesty.
You know Ohare, and him had many arguments, and disputes, over them Tracks. I think the sore-spot, is something in connection, with Sportsmans Park, but we are not interested in his arguments, our interest right now, is tor you to immediately contact Ohare, and tell him the Big-Dago, swears, he is going to have Ohare or will see that some of his friend, score for Eddie. (In the underworld “scoring” for some one means killing him.)
Now tell Eddie, this information, comes from responsible people, if you cant contact Eddie, perhaps, Oneil can reach him.
If and when you. have talked to Ohare, I would like for you to advise me, that you given him my message.
Sincerely Your Friend ‘George.’
The state’s attorney’s office moved at once to reach Daniel O’Neil, long time friend and business associate of O’Hare, on the possibility he might be the “Oneil” referred to in the letter. This man was one time manager of the Madison (Ill.) Kennel club dog track and was indicted with O’Hare on charges of violating the gambling laws. O’Neil now is in EL Louis, Mo.
Letter Found in Hideout.
The letter was found Sunday in a secret hideout O’Hare maintained in an apartment building he owned at 1220 Sherwin avenue. It was discovered by investigators from the office of Coroner Frank J. Walsh, who took a mass of documents and papers from the expensively furnished and couble locked flat.
The letter had been put into an envelope and slipped into the pages cf an old law book. The envelope, vhich had been mailed to O’Hare from St. Louis on Oct. 6. 1937, helped establish the time the intended victim received his warning.
Whether the letter had been mailed In the envelope in which it was found could not be verified. The argument that it had was based on the fact that O’Hare had many associations in St. Louis. It is possible, investigators reasoned, that the man to whom the letter was written might live in St. Louis or might have followed the letter’s suggestion and passed it on to “Oneil,” who in turn mailed it to O’Hare.
Bears Truck Firm Address.
The envelope bore the return address of the Dyer, O’Hare Hanley company, a drayage and trucking concern in which the slain man once was a partner. On the contrary, the typewritten sheet might have been delivered by hand, in which event O’Hare might have thrust it into an envelope he had readily available presumably one that had arrived the same day or about the same time as the warning.
Investigators considered it significant that O’Hare purchased three insurance annuities totaling $96,000 a month after the date postmarked on the envelope.
It was obvious from the part immediately preceding the warning that the original recipient was a promoter of some sort one who would be receptive to a proposal from George that he back a lottery scheme.
Sales Promotion in Letter. This sales promotion portion of the communication follows:
- Now, as to what your PRIZES will be, what you will sell your tickets for, this and many other questions, and problems, must be decided, by you and whoever joins you in this proposition, however, as a example say you were going to sell your tickets for a dime, and that you were going offer a $25.00, prize, or to make it sound more attractive, odds of 250-to-l, that means if you have sold 500 tickets, you have just about made expenses, when you have paid the $25.00, prize, along with commission for sales, printing, and etc.
However in time, I believe you would be selling thousands, of tickets, if this thing would go-over, in time uou would be selling tickets, in factorys, stores, Beauty-Parlors, magazine-counters, elevator-starters, cigar-stores, and numerous other places of this kind.
Ticket Scheme Told.
Your tickets will be in duplicate, one for the player to hold, and one to be picked up, by your agents, along with the dime, of course he will have filled in his numbers. Give this real consideration, there rnsy be a real opportunity to put something like this over, of course this is different and no doubt the skeptics, will discount it as being impractical, they are always ready to show you the folly, of any that is new or different, dont let any one discourage you, go into this thoroughly, before you make a decision, either, for or against the proposition.
When you have received this I would like for you to immediately, drop me a line an say you have heard from George, and will consider his proposition, any thing you may tay regarding George, I will under stand it is something in connection, with this message.
Courtney said that this part of the letter contains a number of clews that may be helpful in locating the writer. In addition to Judge Holland and Patton the prosecutor today expects to question Antoinette Toni Cavaretta, who for several years was O’Hare’s confidential secretary.
Police meanwhile hoped to gain additional information from a witnesstheir first to the actual assassination.
Private Phone Book Found.
Other developments of the day:
- 1. Lieut. Thomas Kelly of the state’s attorney’s police searched O’Hare’s room in the Illinois Athletic club and found a private phone book that listed numbers thruout the nation. Among them was the home phone number of former Gov. James M. Curley of Massachusetts.
2. Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Wright examined O’Hare’s safety deposit vault in the Continental Illinois National bank. More than two dozen property deeds. $96,000 in insurance policies, stock in three dog racing tracks and a horse track, and a mass of contracts and options were found.
3. Wright was shown O’Hare’s will by the Northern Trust company. Except for a $600 annuity for his sister, who lives in Maywood, O’Hare’s estate is left in equal parts to his three children, E. J. Jr, a naval officer; Patricia, 19 years old, and Marilyn, 15.
4. Judge Holland made an explanation to Chief Justice John J. Sonsteby of the Municipal court, who had announced he would order an investigation of the Holland-O’Hare partnership.