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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Death of Cardinal John Joseph Glennon

Cardinal John Joseph Glennon, prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, dies on March 9, 1946 in Dublin. He serves as Archbishop of St. Louis from 1903 until his death. He is elevated to the cardinalate in 1946.

Glennon is born on June 14, 1862 in Kinnegad, County Westmeath, to Matthew and Catherine (née Rafferty) Glennon. After graduating from St. Finian’s College, he enters All Hallows College near Dublin in 1878. He accepts an invitation from Bishop John Joseph Hogan in 1882 to join the newly erected Diocese of Kansas City in the United States. After arriving in Missouri in 1883, he is ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Hogan on December 20, 1884.

Glennon is then assigned to St. Patrick’s Church in Kansas City and, briefly returning to Europe, furthers his studies at the University of Bonn in Germany. Upon his return to Kansas City, he becomes rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. He is later made vicar general (1892) and apostolic administrator (1894) for the diocese.

On March 14, 1896, Glennon is appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Kansas City and Titular Bishop of Pinara by Pope Leo XIII. He receives his episcopal consecration on the following June 29 from Archbishop John Joseph Kain, with Bishops Maurice Francis Burke and John Joseph Hennessy serving as co-consecrators. At age 34, he becomes one of the youngest bishops in the world.

Glennon is named Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Louis on April 27, 1903. He succeeds Archbishop Kain as the fourth Archbishop of St. Louis upon the latter’s death on October 13 of that year. Realizing the Cathedral of St. Louis can no longer accommodate its growing congregation, he quickly begins raising funds for a new cathedral, the cornerstone of which is later laid on October 18, 1908.

Glennon opens the new Kenrick Seminary in 1915, followed by the minor seminary in Shrewsbury. He delivers the eulogy at the funeral of Cardinal James Gibbons, and is appointed an Assistant at the Pontifical Throne on June 28, 1921. He opposes British rule in Ireland, and supports the leaders of the Easter Rising. He is an outspoken opponent of divorce, condemns gambling games, and prohibits dancing and drinking at church-sponsored events. He sometimes throws the opening ball for the St. Louis Cardinals, but does not play any sports himself, once saying, “I once tried golf, but I so disfigured the scenery that I never played again, in fear of public indignation and reprisal.”[2]

Despite a rather popular tenure, as Archbishop of St. Louis Glennon opposes racial integration in the city’s Catholic schools, colleges, and universities. During the early 1940s, many local priests, especially Jesuits, challenge the segregationist policies at the city’s Catholic schools. The St. Louis chapter of the Midwest Clergy Conference on Negro Welfare, formed locally in 1938, pushes the all-female Webster College to integrate first. However, in 1943, Glennon blocks the enrollment of a young black woman at the college by speaking privately with the Kentucky-based superior of the Sisters of Loretto, which staffs the college. When approached directly by pro-integration priests, he calls the integration plan a “Jesuit ploy,” and quickly transfers one of the complaining priests away from his mission at an African American parish.

The Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American newspaper with national circulation, discovers Glennon’s intervention and runs a front-page feature on the Webster incident. In response, Father Claude Heithaus, professor of Classical Archaeology at the Catholic Saint Louis University, delivers an angry sermon accusing his own institution of immoral behavior in its segregation policies. Saint Louis University begins admitting African American students that summer when its president, Father Patrick Holloran, manages to secure approval from the reluctant Archbishop Glennon. Nevertheless, St. Louis maintains one of the largest numbers of African-American parishes and schools in the country.

On Christmas Eve 1945, it is announced that the 83-year-old Glennon will be elevated to the College of Cardinals. He originally thinks himself too old to make the journey to Rome, but eventually joins fellow Cardinals-elect Francis Spellman and Thomas Tien Ken-sin on their flight, during which time he contracts a cold from which he does not recover. Pope Pius XII creates him Cardinal Priest of San Clemente al Laterano in the consistory of February 18, 1946.

During the return trip to the United States, Glennon stops in his native Ireland, where he is received by President Seán T. O’Kelly and Taoiseach Éamon de Valera. While in Dublin, he is diagnosed with uremic poisoning and dies on March 9, 1946, ending a 42-year tenure as Archbishop. The Cardinal’s body is returned to St. Louis and then buried at the Cathedral.

Glennon is the namesake of the community of Glennonville, Missouri. The only diocesan hospital for children, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, affiliated with Saint Louis University Hospital, is created in his name.

(Pictured: Cardinal John J. Glennon, photo by the St. Louis Dispatch)


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Birth of Richard Croker, Leader of New York’s Tammany Hall

Richard Welstead Croker, American politician who is a leader of New York City‘s Tammany Hall and a political boss also known as “Boss Croker, is born in the townland of Ballyva, in the parish of Ardfield, County Cork on November 24, 1843.

Croker is the son of Eyre Coote Croker (1800–1881) and Frances Laura Welsted (1807–1894). He is taken to the United States by his parents when he is just two years old. There are significant differences between this family and the typical family leaving Ireland at the time. They are Protestant and are not land tenants. Upon arrival in the United States, his father is without a profession, but has a general knowledge of horses and soon becomes a veterinary surgeon. During the American Civil War, he serves in that same capacity under General Daniel Sickles.

Croker is educated in New York public schools but drops out at age twelve or thirteen to become an apprentice machinist in the New York and Harlem Railroad machine shops. Not long after, he becomes a valued member of the Fourth Avenue Tunnel Gang, a street gang that attacks teamsters and other workers that gather around the Harlem line’s freight depot. He eventually becomes the gang’s leader. He joins one of the Volunteer Fire Departments in 1863, becoming an engineer of one of the engine companies. That is his gateway into public life.

James O’Brien, a Tammany associate, takes notice of Croker after he wins a boxing match against Dick Lynch whereby he knocks out all of Lynch’s teeth. He becomes a member of Tammany Hall and active in its politics. In the 1860s he is well known for being a “repeater” at elections, voting multiple times at the polls. He is an alderman from 1868–1870 and Coroner of New York City from 1873–1876. He is charged with the murder of John McKenna, a lieutenant of James O’Brien, who is running for United States Congress against the Tammany-backed Abram S. Hewitt. John Kelly, the new Tammany Hall boss, attends the trial and Croker is freed after the jury is undecided. He moves to Harrison, New York by 1880. He is appointed the New York City Fire Commissioner in 1883 and 1887 and city Chamberlain from 1889-1890.

After the death of Kelly, Croker becomes the leader of Tammany Hall and almost completely controls the organization. As head of Tammany, he receives bribe money from the owners of brothels, saloons and illegal gambling dens. He is chairman of Tammany’s Finance Committee but receives no salary for his position. He also becomes a partner in the real estate firm Meyer and Croker with Peter F. Meyer, from which he makes substantial money, often derived from sales under the control of the city through city judges. Other income comes by way of gifts of stock from street railway and transit companies, for example. At the time, the city police are largely still under the control of Tammany Hall, and payoffs from vice protection operations also contribute to Tammany income.

Croker survives Charles Henry Parkhurst‘s attacks on Tammany Hall’s corruption and becomes a wealthy man. Several committees are established in the 1890s, largely at the behest of Thomas C. Platt and other Republicans, to investigate Tammany and Croker, including the 1890 Fassett Committee, the 1894 Lexow Committee, during which Croker leaves the United States for his European residences for three years, and the Mazet Investigation of 1899.

Croker’s greatest political success is his bringing about the 1897 election of Robert Anderson Van Wyck as first mayor of the five-borough “greater” New York. During Van Wyck’s administration Croker completely dominates the government of the city.

In 1899, Croker has a disagreement with Jay Gould‘s son, George Jay Gould, president of the Manhattan Elevated Railroad Company, when Gould refuses his attempt to attach compressed-air pipes to the Elevated company’s structures. He owns many shares of the New York Auto-Truck Company, a company which would benefit from the arrangement. In response to the refusal, he uses Tammany influence to create new city laws requiring drip pans under structures in Manhattan at every street crossing and the requirement that the railroad run trains every five minutes with a $100 fine for every violation. He also holds 2,500 shares of the American Ice Company, worth approximately $250,000, which comes under scrutiny in 1900 when the company attempts to raise the price of ice in the city.

After Croker’s failure to carry the city in the 1900 United States presidential election and the defeat of his mayoralty candidate, Edward M. Shepard, in 1901, he resigns from his position of leadership in Tammany and is succeeded by Lewis Nixon. He departs the United States in 1905.

Croker operates a stable of thoroughbred racehorses during his time in the United States in partnership with Michael F. Dwyer. In January 1895, they send a stable of horses to England under the care of trainer Hardy Campbell, Jr. and jockey Willie Simms. Following a dispute, the partnership is dissolved in May but Croker continues to race in England. In 1907, his horse Orby wins Britain’s most prestigious race, The Derby. Orby is ridden by American jockey John Reiff whose brother Lester had won the race in 1901. Croker is also the breeder of Orby’s son, Grand Parade, who wins the Derby in 1919.

Croker returns to Ireland in 1905 and dies on April 29, 1922 at Glencairn House, his home in Stillorgan outside Dublin. His funeral, celebrated by South African bishop William Miller, draws some of Dublin’s most eminent citizens. The pallbearers are Arthur Griffith, the President of Dáil Éireann; Laurence O’Neill, the Lord Mayor of Dublin; Oliver St. John Gogarty; Joseph MacDonagh; A.H. Flauley, of Chicago; and J.E. Tierney. Michael Collins, Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, is represented by Kevin O’Shiel; the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Edmund Bernard FitzAlan-Howard, 1st Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, is represented by his under-secretary, James MacMahon.

In 1927, J. J. Walsh claims that just before his death Croker had accepted the Provisional Government’s invitation to stand in Dublin County in the imminent 1922 Irish general election.


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Birth of Chicago Mobster Charles Dean O’Banion

charles-o-banionCharles Dean O’Banion, better known as Dion O’Banion, is born to Irish Catholic parents in Maroa, Illinois on July 8, 1892. He graduates from the violent newspaper wars of early 20th century Chicago to become the chief bootlegging rival of mobsters Al Capone and Johnny Torrio.

After the death of his mother in 1901, O’Banion moves with his family to a North Side neighborhood populated largely by other Irish Americans. The neighborhood, then known as Kilgubbin after an Irish place name and now called Goose Island, is notorious for its high crime rate, and O’Banion by all accounts fit easily into that environment. In his teens, he forms a street gang with Earl “Hymie” Weiss, Vincent “The Schemer” Drucci and George “Bugs” Moran with whom he continues to associate throughout his life.

Chicago of the period is, according to Mayor William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson, a “wide open city.” Wide open for rackets such as prostitution and gambling, and wide open for violent competition among gangsters. Bombings and murder are met with token official resistance but are often settled by uneasy truces among the rivals.

The violence extends to the press. O’Banion and his friends are “sluggers” for, first, the Chicago Tribune and later for the Tribune’s rival, the Chicago Examiner. Sluggers intimidate sellers and readers of the wrong newspaper. Although played for laughs in stage and film in productions such as The Front Page, the Chicago newspaper wars are quite violent and include lethal gunfights in saloons and on the streets.

In 1909, O’Banion is arrested and convicted of robbery and assault.

The newspapers wars are a good warm-up for O’Banion’s work as a bootlegger when Prohibition comes into effect in 1920. Chicago, with its large population of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Eastern Europe, is a town that loves its beer, wine and liquor. Almost from the start, O’Banion’s North Side Gang is at odds with the South Side outfit led at the time by Torrio.

About 1921, O’Banion and Torrio, who actively wants peace with his rival, works out a deal that seems to satisfy both the South Side gangsters and O’Banion’s group. O’Banion not only keeps the North Side and the Gold Coast, a wealthy neighborhood on Lake Michigan, but he even gets a slice of Cicero, a suburb controlled by Torrio and Capone on the South Side of Chicago, and they all share profits from a lakefront casino called The Ship.

Eventually the peace breaks down. O’Banion is enraged by efforts of a third gang, the Genna crime family’s West Side Gang, to expand its bootlegging and rackets operations into his territory. The Gennas are allied with Torrio’s South Side gang. O’Banion seals his fate when he refuses to forgive a gambling debt that one of the Gennas had racked up at The Ship.

On the morning of November 10, 1924, O’Banion is in his North Side flower shop, Schofield’s, a front for his mob activities. A Torrio associate from New York City, Frankie Yale, enters the shop with Genna gunmen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi. When O’Banion and Yale shake hands, Yale grasps O’Banion’s hand in a tight grip. At the same time, Scalise and Anselmi step aside and fire two bullets into O’Banion’s chest and two into his throat. One of the killers fires a final shot into the back of his head as he lies face down on the floor.

Since O’Banion is a major crime figure, the Catholic Church denies him burial in consecrated ground. However, a priest O’Banion has known since childhood recites the Lord’s Prayer and three Hail Marys in his memory. Despite this restriction, his funeral is the biggest anyone can remember. Among those attending are Al Capone and members of the South Side Gang. But there soon will be other funerals. The Beer Wars, as they become known, are just beginning.

Torrio escapes an assassination attempt in 1925 and turns over his operation to Capone, the greatest gangster of all. O’Banion’s friend and conspirator Hymie Weiss, who is fingered as one of those who tried to kill Torrio, is gunned down in 1926. In 1929, in an effort to permanently put down the North Side Gang, led then by Bugs Moran, seven of the North Side mobsters are killed in the infamous Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, but Moran survives through the end of Prohibition in 1933.


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Death of Irish American Mobster Mickey Spillane

Michael J. Spillane, Irish American mobster much better known as Mickey Spillane from Hell’s Kitchen, New York City, is killed outside his apartment in Queens on May 13, 1977. Spillane, who is called the “last of the gentleman gangsters,” is a marked contrast to the violent Westies mob members who succeed him in Hell’s Kitchen.

As a young boy in Hell’s Kitchen, Spillane starts as a numbers runner for various organized crime figures in his neighborhood. In 1960, he takes over the rackets left to him by his predecessor Hughie Mulligan. He marries Maureen McManus, the daughter of the Democratic district leader Eugene McManus.

Though Italian mobsters dominate organized crime in the city, the Italian mob stays out of Hell’s Kitchen while Spillane is the boss. Often, Spillane kidnaps members of the Italian Mafia and holds them for ransom to raise money for his operations. Although he runs the rackets such as gambling and loansharking, he never allows the sale of drugs.

It is Spillane’s refusal to allow the Italian mobsters to participate in the Hell’s Kitchen rackets that leads to his downfall. The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is being built on Spillane’s westside at the time. The amount of money the new convention center, Madison Square Garden, the waterfront and the unions are generating for Spillane is enormous, and the Italians are desperate for a piece of the action. Spillane refuses to allow the Italian mob to participate, and the New York Irish-Italian Mob War begins.

In the 1970s the Irish mob sees an increased threat from the Italian Mafia as the Genovese crime family seeks control over the soon to be built Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Since the convention center is located in Spillane’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, Spillane refuses to allow any involvement by the Italians. Although the Italian gangsters greatly outnumber the members of the Irish mob, Spillane is successful in keeping control of the convention center and Hell’s Kitchen. The Italians, frustrated and embarrassed by their defeat to Spillane and the Irish gangsters, respond by hiring a rogue Irish American hitman named Joseph “Mad Dog” Sullivan to assassinate Tom Devaney, Eddie “the Butcher” Cummiskey, and Tom “the Greek” Kapatos, three of Spillane’s chief lieutenants. By the mid-1970s, Spillane has moved his family out of Hell’s Kitchen to Woodside, Queens, because of threats of violence against his children.

In 1966, a young upstart named Jimmy Coonan attempts to take the neighborhood from Spillane, muscling in on his territory and murdering a Spillane underling. Ultimately, Coonan is sent to prison in 1967. When he is released from prison, Coonan seeks to align himself with the Gambino crime family through an up-and-coming mobster from Brooklyn, named Roy DeMeo. This marks the beginning of the end for the Irish mob, as Coonan eventually goes to work for the Gambinos.

On May 13, 1977, Spillane is killed outside his apartment in Queens. It has long been rumored that DeMeo murdered Spillane as a favor to Coonan, who subsequently takes over as the boss of the Hell’s Kitchen Irish Mob. Spillane is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.