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Biography of Gangsters Roger The Terrible Touhy

About the famous gangster Roger "The Terrible" Touhy, biography and history of her crimes, victims and death.

THE GANGSTERS

ROGER "THE TERRIBLE" TOUHY (1898-1959)

Person: A kinky-haired, hard-eyed tough, Touhy cultivated the appearance of a grim criminal who would as quickly kill an enemy as look at him.

Activities: The bootleg boss of the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines was known as the only gangster to make Al Capone back down in a confrontation. It was a dispute over a mere $1,900, which Capone tried to withhold because, he claimed, 50 out of 800 barrels of beer he'd bought from Touhy had leaks. "Don't chisel me, Al," Touhy said firmly, and Capone backed off. Touhy was always doing things like that as the head of "the Terrible Touhys," six brothers who chose criminality after starting life with a respectable background. Their father was a policeman, and many of their playmates on Chicago's West Side became cops. In the 1920s Touhy went into the trucking business, and when enough legitimate business didn't come along, he started filling his trucks with bootleg liquor.

Touhy's hold on Des Plaines was firm because he produced a beer of very high quality; the kegs--made at his own establishment--never leaked; and the cops and politicians were paid off in bottled beer brewed especially for them. Whenever members of a rival gang made noises about moving in, Touhy would invite them to his headquarters, where they would find the walls lined with submachine guns (borrowed for the occasion from the local cops). Then he would issue "hit" orders on the phone while his visitors listened. The rivals would always pull out, believing his alleged gang of 200 gunmen was too tough to handle. Capone himself got the same treatment when he tried to move other rackets in, noting that Des Plaines was "virgin territory for whorehouses." Touhy gave him a hard-eyed no. Eventually the Capone mob decided that the best way to handle Touhy was to let the law get him. He was framed on a kidnapping charge, and the mob took over.

Leading Crimes: Touhy was convicted for the 1933 kidnapping of Jake "the Barber" Factor, an international con man with ties to the Capone mob. Sentenced to prison for 99 years, Touhy cried frame-up to no avail. In 1942 Touhy escaped from Illinois State Prison in Joliet, but he was recaptured and sentenced to an additional 199 years. Finally, in the 1950s, Touhy won a hearing on his original conviction, and after a 36-day inquiry Judge John P. Barnes concluded that Factor had disappeared "of his own connivance," and rendered his verdict: "The court finds that Roger Touhy did not kidnap John Factor." The judge went on to castigate the Chicago police, the state's attorney, the Capone mob, and the FBI. After serving a quarter of a century for a noncrime, Touhy was freed in 1959.

Major Victims: In a sense Touhy was a victim of his own posturing as an impregnable gang lord. In point of fact he never even made the public-enemies list of the Chicago Crime Commission and, as Judge Barnes noted, was never linked with a capital case.

How Died: Just 23 days after he was freed, Touhy was shotgunned down on a Chicago street by Capone gang member Murray "the Camel" Humphreys, according to general belief. "I've been expecting it," Touhy muttered shortly before dying. "The bastards never forget."

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