3 July 1905|
Licata, Sicily, Italy
15 February 1936 (aged 30)|
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Early life[edit | edit source]
McGurn was born on 3 July 1905 in Licata, Sicily, the eldest son of Angelo and Giuseppa Gibaldi (née Verderame). A year later his family emigrated to the USA, arriving at Ellis Island on November 24, 1906. McGurn grew up in the Chicago slums where he later took up a career in boxing as a teenager and changed his name to "Battling" Jack McGurn because boxers with Irish names got the better bookings.
Prohibition[edit | edit source]
As a youth, McGurn did not run in gang circles. However, when his father was assassinated by gang extortionists on January 28, 1923, he methodically avenged his father's death by killing the three hitmen responsible. This ruthless efficiency provided his introduction to Al Capone in late 1923. He was famous for leaving coins in his victims' hands.
McGurn had part ownership of a speakeasy jazz club, a venue which still exists today, the infamous Green Mill, at 4802 North Broadway, in the middle of the rival "Bugs" Moran gang's territory. In November 1927, manager Danny Cohen gave McGurn the task of "persuading" comedian/singer Joe E. Lewis not to move his act south to the New Rendezvous Café, at North Clark Street and West Diversey Parkway. Lewis refused, and McGurn slit Lewis's throat, cutting off a portion of his tongue and leaving him for dead. Miraculously, Lewis eventually recovered and resumed his career, but his voice never regained its lush sound.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre[edit | edit source]
Although police charged McGurn in the case, he was never brought to trial largely due to his "blonde alibi"—girlfriend and later wife Louise Rolfe—who claimed they spent the whole day together.
Later years[edit | edit source]
In April 1930, when Frank J. Loesch, chairman of the Chicago Crime Commission compiled his "Public Enemies" list of the top 28 people he saw as corrupting Chicago, McGurn's name was fourth on the list, which was published nationwide.
This notoriety caused him to be shunned by the Outfit. So McGurn, who had great hand-eye coordination, attempted a career as a professional golfer. According to the July, 1996 and June, 2003 issues of Chicagoland Golf magazine, McGurn was a silent partner in Evergreen Golf Course, at 91st Street and Western Avenue, a known mob hangout where McGurn could often be found playing, practicing, giving lessons, or drinking and playing cards in the clubhouse.
On August 25, 1933, the Western Open golf championship began at Olympia Fields Country Club in the far south suburb of Olympia Fields. A reasonably skilled golfer and flashy dresser, McGurn entered the competition as Vincent Gebhardi (another version of his real name), the professional at public Evergreen Golf Course. In the opening round, McGurn carded a 13-over-par 83 on course No. 4 (today's North Course). The next morning, the name "Gebhardi" on the day's pairing sheet was observed by an alert Chicago Police chief detective, who sent two sergeants to arrest him. "Aware of McGurn's truculent temper," the Chicago Tribune account reported, "the sergeants enlisted the help of Lt. Frank McGillen and five policemen from the Homewood station of the county highway force."
McGurn was playing much better the second day. The group of burly officers accosted McGurn on the seventh green and told him he was under arrest under a warrant issued the day before under the "criminal reputation law". He was accompanied by his wife, the glitzy "Blonde Alibi" Louise Rolfe, who was dressed to the nines. Wearing a tight, thin white dress and sporting a three-carat diamond ring, she approached the policemen and snapped, "Whose brilliant idea was this?" McGurn politely asked to finish his round. Amused, the plainclothesmen agreed and became part of his gallery. But the police presence began to unnerve McGurn and his game suddenly went sour. He came in with a 16-over-par 86 for a 36-hole total of 169, 14 strokes above making the cut.
Death[edit | edit source]
Less than three years later, McGurn, by then impoverished and abandoned by his fellow gangsters, was assassinated by three men using machine guns on February 15, 1936, the seventh anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day massacre. He was bowling at the second-floor Avenue Recreation Bowling Alley, at 805 N. Milwaukee Avenue (at Chicago Avenue).
He was laid to rest at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
The identity of McGurn's killers remains unknown, but research and speculation by criminologists suggest three possible theories: revenge by George "Bugs" Moran, whose men Jack had planned to kill almost seven years to the date before, or the South Side mob under Frank Nitti, because McGurn (a heavy drinker and a braggart) had become a liability due to his intimate knowledge of the Outfit. There is also the notion that McGurn was killed by James Gusenberg, the brother of Frank and Pete Gusenberg who were two of the victims of the St Valentine's Day Massacre.
The killers tossed a Valentine card with this poem near to his body: "You've lost your job, you've lost your dough, Your jewels and cars and handsome houses, But things could still be worse you know... At least you haven't lost your trousers!".
On March 2, 1936, McGurn's half-brother, Anthony De Mory, was killed in a manner similar to McGurn. De Mory, who had claimed, "I know the guys who killed Jack. I'm going to get them," was shot by three masked men in a Chicago pool hall. Police linked the assassination to McGurn's slaying.
In popular culture[edit | edit source]
- McGurn has been portrayed in several movies including The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) by Clint Ritchie, Capone (1975) by Carmen Argenziano and The Verne Miller Story (1987) by Frank Costa. He was also played by K.L. Smith in the original The Untouchables television series and by Paul Stevens in the Playhouse 90 episode "Seven Against the Wall", depicting his role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
- McGurn's attempted killing of Joe E. Lewis was later immortalized in the movie The Joker Is Wild (1957), with Frank Sinatra as Lewis.
References[edit | edit source]
- "'Machine Gun' McGurn Is Slain in Chicago. Linked to St. Valentine 'Massacre' of 1929". New York Times. February 15, 1936. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F70E12F93D54147B93C7A81789D85F428385F9. Retrieved 2012-08-15. "Gangland early this morning observed the seventh anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day massacre by assassinating "Machinegun Jack" McGurn, one-time leader of the old Capone gang, who was suspected of participation in the killing of the seven men in a North Side garage in 1929."
- The Associated Press. "Gangland's guns flash death again", The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. March 3, 1936.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Parr, Amanda J. (2005). The True and Complete Story of Machine Gun Jack McGurn. Matador. ISBN 1-905237-13-8.
[edit | edit source]
- Jack "Machine Gun Jack" McGurn at Find-A-Grave
- Green Mill Jazz Club website: The Green Mill Jazz Club History