Frank Capone, elder brother of Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone, was, some experts say, a man who could have written an even bloodier chapter in American crime than his infamous brother. While still in his 20s, he died in a pool of blood, riddled with slugs from a police shotgun. Another great Capone legend was nipped in the bud.
Frank Capone had a dedication to bloodletting and more savage instincts than Al, a man who is conservatively estimated to have ordered the deaths of at least 500 victims. Despite this bloody record, Al always exercised a certain patience. His credo, absorbed from the teachings of Johnny Torrio, was “always try to deal before you have to kill.” To Frank Capone, this was an alien philosophy. His favorite observation was, “You never get no back talk from no corpse.” And when spoken by Frank, the words, uttered with quiet, almost bankerlike reserve, bore an ominous quality unrivaled by Hollywood-inspired villains.It was hardly surprising that, when the Chicagobased Torrio-Capone plans shifted from persuasion to force, Frank’s labors had their shining moment. In the 1924 city election in Cicero, Illinois, the Democratic Party had the temerity to actually try to unseat the Torrio/Capone puppet regime of Joseph Z. Klenha. On the eve of the April 1 election campaigner Frank Capone took over. He led an assault on the Democratic candidate for town clerk, William K. Pflaum, besieging him in his office, roughing him up and finally ripping his office apart.
During the actual polling the following day, thugs invaded the polling places and screened out voters. They were asked how they were voting and if they gave the incorrect answer, a hoodlum grabbed the ballot from their hand and marked it “properly.” They then waited, fingering a revolver, until the voter exercised his or her civic responsibility by dropping the ballot into the box. There were some voters who protested such cavalier treatment, and the thugs stilled their complaints by simply slugging them and carting them from the polling place.
Most honest election officials and poll watchers were frozen into inaction, and those who objected were slugged, kidnapped and held captive until the voting was concluded. The early toll included three men shot dead and another who had his throat slashed. A policeman, operating under the assumption that laws should be enforced, was blackjacked into submission. A Democratic campaign worker, Michael Gavin, was shot in both legs and thoughtfully carried off to imprisonment in the basement of a mob-owned hotel in Chicago. To make sure he was ministered to properly, eight other balky Democrats were sent along with him.
By late afternoon on election day the honest citizenry of Cicero rallied their forces and sought relief from the courts. In answer to their pleas, County Judge Edmund K. Jarecki deputized 70 Chicago police officers who were rushed to Cicero to fight a series of battles with Capone thugs. A police squad under Detective Sergeant William Cusick responded to an emergency call from a polling place near the Hawthorne works of the Western Electric Co. where Al and Frank Capone, their cousin Charles Fischetti and Dave Hedlin were soliciting votes with drawn revolvers.
At that time police rode about in unmarked cars, often long limousines similar in appearance to the vehicles mobsters preferred. Al Capone, Fischetti and Hedlin hesitated for a moment, unsure whether the intruders were rival gangsters or police. Frank Capone suffered no such restraints and immediately opened fire, igniting a general gunfight. Frank moved up on a patrolman and took aim at point-blank range. Whether he missed or the gun misfired is unclear, but before he could press the trigger again, the patrolman and a companion cut loose with both barrels of their shotguns. The elder Capone slumped to the gutter, dead. Al Capone fled the scene, as did Hedlin. Fischetti was seized but soon released by the police.
The boys gave Frank Capone the biggest underworld funeral seen in Chicago up to that time. It was said Al personally selected the silver-plated coffin, festooned with $20,000 worth of flowers. The Chicago Tribune noted with some irony that the affair was fitting enough for a “distinguished statesman.” It was an understatement. After all, what statesman could bring about the ultimate period of mourning whereby all the gambling joints and whorehouses in Cicero ceased operations for two entire hours in tribute to Frank Capone? And it must be noted, in the final measurement of Frank Capone’s contribution to the American dream, that his efforts on behalf of democracy had not been in vain. The Klenha ticket, from top to bottom, was swept back into office in a landslide.