Al Capone and the Campaign
against Organized Crime
"You don't need to be ordering fancy duds. You're going to prison; why don't you have a suit made with stripes on it?" "The hell I am," replied Capone, "I'm going to Florida for a nice long rest, and I need some new clothes before I go."1
The life and times of Alphonse Capone, America's most memorable gangster, have been recounted many times.2 Ordinarily, Herbert Hoover has only a minor role in such accounts. With few exceptions, Capone is larger than life itself and seemingly more powerful than community forces or federal agents. Actually, Capone's power was weakly organized and shallow, vulnerable to the efforts of ordinary people of high integrity and leadership.
The Hoover administration gave priority to convicting Capone, thereby enlarging and transforming federal intervention in organized crime. Hoover was the first president to personally lead an organized crime investigation. On taking office, he ordered Attorney General William Mitchell and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon to cooperate in strategies designed to insure Capone's conviction. This chapter discusses the administrative pattern of instructions from the White House to field investigators, establishing a clear sense of determined purpose and competent leadership.
The Internal Revenue Service opened the first investigations of Al Capone in the final months of the Coolidge administration.3 Perceived