Monday, December 22, 2008

The 'Raiding Pastor' takes on Capone

Reverend Henry C. Hoover, a Berwyn minister, was the leader of a vigilante group known as the West Suburban Ministers' and Citizens' Association, and a constant thorn in Al Capone's side. As early as 1925, Hoover had identified Capone as a menace to society, and, together with his Association, paid off a rival group of gangsters to burn down one of Capone's brothels in Cicero, near the race track. These actions led Hoover to acquire the moniker, "The Raiding Pastor."

On May 16, 1925, Hoover set his sights on the Hawthorne Smoke Shop, a Capone-controlled gambling house, located here at 4818 W. 22nd St., in Cicero. His group raided the house early in the morning and toted out an array of gambling paraphernalia. When Capone heard about the raid, he personally marched over to the Smoke Shop (still dressed in pajamas) to find out what all the fuss was about. When he confronted Hoover, Hoover turned to a police officer who had accompanied him on the raid and asked, "Who is this man?"

Capone answered for him, using his common pseudonym: "I'm Al Brown, if that's good enough for you."

Hoover mocked the bootlegger, "Oh, I thought it was someone like that, someone more powerful than the president of the United States."

Hoover re-enacted this scene word-for-word on the stand at Capone's tax evasion trial in 1931, offering the jury the sacred word of a man of the cloth describing Capone's wickedness, and linking him to a known gambling operation. After this confrontation, Hoover explained that Capone had tried to cut a deal with the Raiding Pastor:

"Why are you fellows always picking on me? Reverend, can't you and I get together - come to an understanding? If you will let up on me in Cicero, I'll withdraw from Stickney."

Hoover responded righteously: "Mr. Capone, the only understanding you and I can have is that you must obey the law or get out of the western suburbs."

Damning as the testimony was, it never should have been heard in court. The raid was over five years old at the time of the trial, and Capone's attorneys could have had it excluded on statute of limitations grounds, had they realized it.

Rev. Hoover continued his crusades against organized crime until his passing in 1955.


Anonymous said...

This is very interseting. In a taped interview of my grandfather before his passing last year, I learned not only was Reverend Hoover a relative by marriage, but of his endeavors. I now have a new passion to discover more about this man. Thank you!

Unknown said...

Reverend Hoover was my Great Grandfather. It's nice to know that he is still remembered after all these years. I never knew him but my Grandmother spoke of him often. He was indeed a great man.

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