Words by Rob Thubron and Cheish Merryweather
Talk to anyone about prohibition gangsters and in all likelihood the first name they’ll mention will be Alphonse Gabriel ‘Al’ Capone. Nearly ninety years since his heyday, Capone’s name still pops up regularly in modern culture, yet it’s easy to forget that for all his showboating and media-savviness, Al Capone was a violent killer who rose to power by murdering anyone who stood in his way
Once Johnny Torrio went into forced retirement after surviving his assassination attempt, Capone took over the reins of the Chicago Outfit. The new leader reveled in the in the attention he received, and many viewed Capone, who was said to be making close to $100 million a year, as a modern day Robin Hood.
The public’s perception of him changed after the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. During the Prohibition Era on Valentine’s Day 1929, seven mob associates of the North Side Irish gang, which was led by Bugs Moran, were lined up against a wall inside a garage at 2122 North Clark Street, in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side. They were then shot by four men using Thompson submachine guns (“Tommy Guns”), two of men had been dressed as uniformed policemen witnesses claimed.
When the real Chicago police officers arrived at the scene, one victim, Frank Gusenberg was still alive. Gusenberg was rushed to hospital after sustaining fourteen bullet wounds, he was asked by the police who shot him, to which he replied, “No one shot me.” He died three hours later. People still believe Al Capone was behind the shootings as he was taking over the Chicago outfit at the time, though it was never confirmed.
Capone was eventually sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. Upon arriving at the Atlanta US penitentiary, he was diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. Paroled after eight years, Capone’s later life was marred by illness – his late-stage syphilis had reduced his mental faculties to that of a 12-year-old. He died of cardiac arrest in 1947. Capone is thought to have murdered at least 32 men during his life as the most notorious prohibition era villain.
Here are 11 of his most memorable quotes…