Friday, February 15, 2013

Al Capone comes to Miami for rest ... and more

Capone in 1928 (LOC)

“Scarface Al” Capone visited the Miami Police Station when he arrived in town early 1928. He was there he said, to “lay his cards face up on the table.” He told Chief Leslie Quigg and gathering reporters that he was in town for a vacation and a rest. He expected to be joined later that afternoon by his mother, wife and child who were en route by train.

Capone, then about 30 years-old, had recently been ordered out of Chicago by leaders who hoped his absence would bring a “truce between rival factions of machine gunners and bombers.” Capone left for Los Angeles but city officials did not want him there either. Reporters asked why.

“This is the way that happened,” Capone began. “When I got in, a bunch of the boys met me at the train. Some of them must have had guns on their hips and the police didn’t like that, so they thought I was a bad moral influence or something. They had me all wrong there and I’m glad to say my reception here has been quite different.”

Chicago “beer baron” Capone was asked if he would engage in business in Miami. He assured Quigg that he would not but also told reporters he was interested in Miami real estate. He had real estate investments on Florida’s west coast. “I believe now is the time to buy and I’m thinking of going into the market rather heavily.”

Capone, “somewhat shy and rather heavyset” and dressed in a blue suit, gray fedora and without walking cane and jewelry, left the station through the back door. He was accompanied by one friend - not his usual team of three body guards. Quigg said Capone should not be treated differently than any other winter tourist.

A month later, Quigg told reporters Capone was doing nothing but “staying in South Florida for his health and for that of his family. He is spending a good deal of money.” (Quigg faced corruption charges in 1928 but was later cleared.)

Capone, considered by many to be the mastermind of the 1929 murders of Chicago rivals - the St. Valentine’s Day massacre - was at his Miami Palm Island home at the time. He was convicted later in 1929 for owning a weapon and was sent to prison for one year. He was suspected to have been heavily involved with Miami gambling and illicit race track activities. His winter presence probably contributed to the 1950 Kefauver Senate Committee tapping Miami as one of nine crime centers in the U.S.

For more about Capone in Miami, see:

Sources:
Kleinberg, Howard. Miami Beach, a History. Miami: Centennial Press (1994).
Miami News, Jan. 10, 1928
Miami News, Feb. 21, 1928
Miami News, Jun. 26, 1946

Tags: Miami history, Miami mobsters, Al Capone in Miami, Jane Feehan film researcher,  historical researcher

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