Who was Eliot Ness? Nearly anyone knows Ness’ accomplishments in Cleveland when he went up against Al Capone. Most also know Capone eventually went to jail for tax evasion, but what happened to Ness and his Untouchables? Did they merely fade away into quiet life? The fate of Ness was quite the opposite, he continued doing what he fell in love with. Taking down corruption on any level. He carried on his war on the mob for an entire decade after Capone, staging daring raids on bootleggers, illegal gambling clubs and generally putting organized crime on the run. Ness’ exploits in Chicago were chronicled in his book The Untouchables, but if he had carried on against the mob, why wouldn’t he publicize such exploits? He actually intended to do so but his life was cut short by a heart attack before he was able.
Eliot Ness was born on April 19, 1903 in Chicago. He was a lucky boy born into an almost storybook type of American family. His parents, Peter and Emma Ness, were Norwegian immigrants who had earned a comfortable middle class life for their family by very hard work and practical living. Over the years, Peter had made his wholesale bakery into a thriving business. It is supposed that Ness gained his father’s work-aholic traits that drove him so hard later in life. Eliot was the youngest of the five Ness children. There was a huge age difference between Eliot and his siblings. His brother whom was closest to Eliot in age was none the less thirteen years older. Hence Eliot received a great deal of individual attention from his parents who were well into middle age when he was born. Due to this Eliot was a remarkable well-behaved boy, full of integrity and enthusiasm. Eliot was an excellent student who preferred his studies to rowdier activities. It is supposed that Eliot’s older brother in law fueled his need for adventure, which eventually drove him to civic duty.
Young Eliot Ness attended the University of Chicago and earned a degree in business and law. When he graduated in 1925 he greatly upset those he loved by choosing a career in credit investigation rather that his planned path of business. During his short lived credit investigator career he studied criminology at night. Two years later Ness managed to be transferred to the Prohibition Bureau with some help from his brother in law. Here the staggering level of corruption stunned him in his office. In his book he writes that he may have excepted this fact were it not for his walk home one night. He was with his partner at the time and by some trick of fate they passed none other than Al Capone on the street. To his amazement his partner tipped his hat and all but bowed as they passed.
By late 1928 Al Capone was the most flamboyant and successful criminals in the United States. His power was arguably unmatched by any criminal to date. Capone’s influence was so amazingly strong that Frank Loesch, the president of the Chicago Crime Commission literally had to ask Capone’s help in securing an honest election in Cook County. Considering the level of corruption spread from mere patrolmen all the way up to the Illinois Governor, Loesch was forced to turn to the most powerful man in the city. In the spring Republican primary earlier that year candidates and party members were openly murdered and voters scared away. Hence Loesch needed Capone to prevent violence. Loesch later admitted “It turned out to be the squarest and most successful election day in forty years. There was not one complaint, not one election fraud and no threat of trouble all day.”
In order to take down Capone it was surmised that a special team would be installed, but who should be on this team? Corruption was rampant in the prohibition bureau at the time and honest men were few and far between. Once again with some help from his brother in law Ness was recognized for his integrity and granted the task of assembling and leading a team...
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