Monthly Archives: June 2018

“White Supremacy” and “Negro Supremacy”

(June 26, 2018) Nearly all white Reconstruction-Era Southerners regarded the “Carpetbagger” Republican state regimes as corrupted interlopers, which they desired to replace with “Home Rule” governments run by whites endemic to the region. Less well known, however, is that both “Carpetbagger” and “Home Rule” were terms that had racially-charged synonyms. While most students of the era recognize that “White Supremacy” was synonymous with “Home Rule,”  few realize that “Negro Supremacy” was synonymous with “Carpetbag Rule.” Even fewer know that “Negro Supremacy” predated “Carpetbagger” as a political expression. Thus, even though “White Supremacy” undeniably had a racist meaning, in the politics of Reconstruction it was also a contra term response to “Negro Supremacy.”

As a result, Southerners who cheered “White Supremacy” victories were not only proclaiming a false belief in racial superiority they were also celebrating the defeat of “Negro Supremacy” as a synonym for Carpetbag governments. Many modern historians choose to ignore the second connotation. Instead they interpret use of the term by era-specific Southerners as proof of a particularly virulent form of racism that was limited to the region’s whites. (As such, it contributes to the South as Evil Twin interpretation of the period.)

[Learn more Civil War and Reconstruction at My Amazon Author Page]

“Negro Supremacy” may have first entered the political lexicon in President Andrew Johnson’s December 1867 annual message as a characterization of a Radical Republican intent  to establish Southern puppet regimes based on the Reconstruction Acts passed earlier that year. The National Democratic Party repeated the expression in their Party platform released at the New York City convention on July 4, 1868. Although President Andrew Johnson’s successor as Tennessee’s governor had ruled a Scalawag government in that sate since 1865, the “Negro Supremacy” term was first used at least six months before a single Carpetbag government was operating in the other ten states of the former Confederacy. Democrats utilized the pejorative term for two reasons.

First, the 1867 Reconstruction Acts of the Republican-controlled Congress compelled black male suffrage in each of the ex-Rebel states, but none of the Northern states.  It simultaneously denied voting and office holding rights to many former Confederates. The Acts were deliberately intended to establish Republican-loyal regimes in the Southern states. Only seven of the ten applicable states were readmitted to the Union before the 1868 presidential election. African-Americans composed the majority of voters in four of the seven.

When Southern whites attempted to avoid having their states re-admitted to the Union under “Negro Supremacy” by abstaining to vote and thereby preventing approval of the state constitutions by “the majority of registered voters” as required by the first two Reconstruction Acts, Congress moved the goalposts. In February 1868 it passed a third Reconstruction Act that enabled the states to be admitted when only a “majority of the votes cast” approved the constitutions.

Since Southern Republicans controlled the election machinery in the final three ex-Confederate states, they sometimes cancelled the registrations of opposing voters and secretly moved polling locations in order to obtain the desired “majority of votes cast” for their side. In this manner, Carpetbag regimes were installed even in the Southern states where blacks represented only a minority of registered voters. Once the regimes were in place, they were able to disfranchise even more former Confederates via legislative action in order to ensure that the Carpetbag governments remained in control.

The second reason that the Democrats adopted the “Negro Supremacy” pejorative was that the majority of white Americans nationwide were reluctant to support a government whose election might pivot on black votes. Thus, despite his popularity as a Civil War hero, President Ulysses Grant received only a minority of white votes for his first term election in 1868. His overall 53% popular vote hinged on an overwhelming sweep of Southern black votes.  Notwithstanding that only a tiny fraction of their populations were black, every Northern state where black suffrage was proposed during the preceding three years rejected it. Examples include Ohio, Kansas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Minnesota.  Then in 1868, the very year when Grant becomes President-elect, black suffrage was additionally rejected by the legislatures of Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York and by voters again in Ohio.  

Accordingly, later statues and plaques memorializing the victories of “White Supremacy” had two purposes. One was to proclaim the obvious and false presumption of white racial superiority. But the other was to celebrate the defeat of “Negro Supremacy,” which was synonymous with the “Carpetbag Supremacy.”

Perhaps Louisiana has become the state most notorious for “White Supremacy” memorials, which have since been removed. If, however, “White Supremacy” is taken to partly mean the defeat of the crooked Carpetbag regimes—instead of entirely a racial slur—that were empowered by “Negro Supremacy,” then Louisiana whites had some legitimate complaints.

Lincoln had authorized a Louisiana Republican government early in 1864, while the Civil War was still ongoing. When Congress refused to accept that government’s elected congressional representatives, participating Louisianans felt betrayed. Their very lives were at risk because they had disclosed their loyalty to the federal government when the Confederacy was still fighting.

Less than a year after the war ended Louisiana governor Wells realized that former Confederates returning to the state would not support him at the polls. Thus, Wells urged that the state constitutional convention of 1864 which had created Lincoln’s state government should be reconvened. His purpose was to get a new constitution which would give voting rights to blacks, whom he expected to support him out of reciprocity. Continue reading

Advertisements

Today’s Echo of a Reconstruction Era Controversy

(June 23, 2018) In the nineteenth century, banker J. P. Morgan once observed, “A man always has two reasons for the things he does­—a good one and the real one.” He was implying that the good reason is a false, benevolent explanation that conceals the real self-serving one.

Consider, for example, that historians who came of age during the 1960s civil rights era or later, such as Eric Foner and his acolytes, almost universally explain that President Grant and the Republican Party insisted upon voting rights for ex-slaves as a moral conviction. In contrast, earlier historians—and contemporaries of the Reconstruction Era—often admit that there was a self-serving explanation as well.

[Learn more about Civil War and Reconstruction at My Amazon Author Page]

Specifically, Republicans realized that they could lose control in Washington if the Southern states re-entered the Union without a significant Republican voting bloc, which almost certainly would have happened if whites dominated the Southern electorate. The infant GOP was vulnerable because at the end of the war it was only twelve years old and its members were predominantly Northerners. But they soon realized that continued Republican control of Washington could be assured through two federal actions. First was to create a Republican-loyal constituency out of the freed slaves, which accounted for 40% of the former Confederacy’s population. Second was to shrink the South’s opposing electorate and power by denying voter and office-holding rights to many former Confederates.

What might J. P. Morgan say explains Rachel Maddow’s weeping?

The impact was almost immediate. During the first presidential election after the war in 1868 President-elect Ulysses Grant lost the white vote of the entire nation. His ultimate 53% popular vote majority resulted from an overwhelming sweep of Southern blacks.

Although modern historians applaud Reconstruction Era Republicans for advocating black civil rights they generally decline to mention that the Party failed to protect other racial minorities that were not solidly Republican. In fact, the Republican-sponsored 1866 Civil Rights Act and the three constitutional amendments of the era mostly ignored “non-white” American residents who were not black. The Party did nothing for abused racial minorities such as Indians and Chinese-Americans. (Both groups were legally considered “non-white.”) It also used federal powers to suppress the immigrant vote in Northern big cities because recent immigrants tended to vote Democratic.

Consider the case of Asian-Americans. Two thirds of the lynching victims in California between 1849 and 1902 were Chinese. America’s biggest lynching happened in Los Angeles in 1871 when nineteen were lynched, including one woman. Although California had far fewer lynchings than the South, the number of Chinese-Americans in the state never topped 10% until late in the 20th century and few were permitted to vote until 1943.  Just imagine the greater white violence against Chinese-Americans that might have resulted in California if the Asian immigrants had been permitted to vote while representing as large a share of the population as the 40% that blacks did in the South.

Since Californians recognized that the Fourteenth Amendment would automatically bestow citizenship on the offspring of Chinese-Americans born in the USA, they took three actions to minimize such possibilities.

First, they persuaded the Republican-controlled Congress to pass the 1875 Page Act that blocked Chinese women from immigrating at a time when nearly all of the Chinese in America were males. Second, in 1905 California passed a miscegenation law, which prevented Chinese and white intermarriage. Third, despite the results of the Civil War, the state’s Supreme Court ruled in People v. Brady (40 Cal. 198 – 1870) that the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to California because it was a “sovereign state.” California basically nullified, with impunity, a part of the U. S. Constitution that it did not like. But it was just such a nullification among Southern states that was taken as the official reason for the  Civil War. The same constitutional principle was not applied to California because . . . well, that’s different, see?

There is no denying that much of the nineteenth century hostility toward Chinese-Americans also came from the white laboring classes of the Democratic Party that competed for employment with the Asian immigrants. The key point, however, is that the GOP hypocritically limited its concern for minority suffrage and civil rights to Republican-loyal black voters and ignored other “non-white” minorities. As a result, it is difficult to conclude that Reconstruction Era Republicans were genuinely interested in minority rights, except for the solitary minority of blacks that would keep the Party in power.

The recent lawsuit involving Harvard University’s admissions discrimination against Asian-Americans demonstrates that the group continues to suffer racial injustices. Once again Asian-Americans find they are dismissed by one of the major political parties, although this time it is the Democrats doing the rejecting. And once again they are ignored for a similar reason as during Reconstruction. Specifically, this time they are not sufficiently Democrat-loyal and simultaneously a large enough group to swing the Washington power balance toward the “Happy Days” party. Such factors may explain why Democrats focus attention on other disadvantaged minorities such as Latinos and blacks that generally vote overwhelming  for the Party’s candidates.

Recent developments in illegal immigration on the Southern border underscore how the Reconstruction Era Republicans and present day Democrats seem to fulfill J. P. Morgan’s adage. Just as Reconstruction Republicans wanted the black vote in order to assure GOP control in Washington, it is hard to avoid concluding that today’s Democrats want illegal immigrants released into America’s interior because they want the future votes such families can provide via anchor babies and similar factors. For example, Washington Post columnist Max Boot not only condemns the Asian-American lawsuit against Harvard but also argues that the only way to keep illegal immigrant families intact is to release them thereby providing future voters for Democrats.

Why Confederate Monuments Were Erected

(June 19, 2018) The diagram below graphs the number of Confederate statues erected between 1870 and 1980. Since the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) compiled the data, they suggest the memorials were most frequently constructed during periods of blatant anti-black activities in the South. In short, they imply that racism was the chief motive for Confederate monument building. To the objective observer, however, the genuine explanations obviously fail to conform to the SPLC’s assumptions. 

The two most notable peaks of were 1900-1915 and 1957-1965.

As the graph indicates, the SPLC implies that the first wave was due to “lynchings, ‘Lost Cause Mythology,’ and a resurgent KKK.” But the facts don’t support their conclusion.

First, the KKK’s resurgence was in the 1920s, at least five-to-ten years after the first peak had already past. Moreover, Indiana had more Klan members during the 1920s than any other state, yet it is north of the Ohio River. Second, the number of lynchings was steadily declining during the 1900-1915 period. Third, a regionally popular Civil War interpretation that the South was fighting for a correct Constitutional principle and heroically lost only against overwhelming odds (Lost Cause Mythology) was was not concentrated in the 1900-1915 period. It remained a popular concept in the South until at least 1950.

[Learn more about Civil War and Reconstruction at My Amazon Author Page]

In reality, four factors that the SPLC failed to consider caused the first surge during the 1900-1915 interval. First, the old soldiers were dying and survivors wanted to honor their memories. A twenty-one year old who joined the Rebel army at the start of the war was sixty years old in 1900 and seventy-five in 1915. Second, 1911 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the start of the war and 1915 was the fiftieth anniversary of its end. Third, post-war impoverished Southerners generally did not have enough money to erect memorials until the turn of the century. The region did not even recover to its level of pre-war economic activity until 1900. Fourth, until about 1895 Union veterans often opposed displays of Confederate iconography, an opinion they effectively promoted through their Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) lobbying organization.  The GAR was so powerful that it impelled the federal government to grant generous pensions to Union veterans, while excluding former Confederates. In 1893 Union veterans pensions totaled 40% of the entire federal budget and annual disbursements did not top-out unit 1921.

As for the second surge between 1957 and 1965, the SPLC dubiously attributes it to Southern resentment over public school integration and the 1960s civil rights movement. But it was more likely due to initiatives that memorialized the Civil War Centennial. The U. S. Post Office, for example, issued five commemorative postage stamps during the period. Similarly, the federally sponsored Centennial Civil War Commission issued a commemorative medal featuring reliefs of Grant and Lee on the obverse with opposing infantrymen peacefully depicted on the reverse.

Sources: Leonard J. Moore, Citizen Klansman: The Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, 1921-21; Ludwell Johnson, Division and Reunion; Jill Quadagno, The Transformation of Old Age Security; City University of New York, “Bar Graph of African American Lynchings: 1890-1929,” American Social History Project [https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1884]; William J. Cooper and Thomas Terrill, The American South: A History-Volume 2; William H. Giasson, Federal Military Pensions in the United States

Discussion Group Selective Censorship

(June 12, 2018) As noted in “The Place Where Bullies Go”, Civil War FaceBook groups and similar online talk boards are generally hostile to Southern participants. They overflow with members who are reinforced by “administrators” and “moderators” with a pathological hatred of anyone voicing an opinion, or merely providing facts, that fail to endorse the interpretations of James McPherson, Eric Foner and their acolytes. In reality, the “administrators” and “moderators” are nothing more than anti-Southern censors. Here’s an example.

[Learn more about Civil War and Reconstruction at My Amazon Author Page]

The dominant majority of members in such groups insist that slavery was the cause of the Civil War because all other sectional differences could have been compromised. For purposes of argument a Southerner might agree that slavery was the chief reason that the initial seven cotton states seceded but disagree that it was the reason Northerners chose to fight. After all, the remaining Union-loyal states could have permitted the Southern cotton states to secede in peace. If the Northern states had not insisted upon war they could have let the cotton states leave and keep the four upper-south sates of Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia without bloodshed. Those states only joined the Confederacy—thereby doubling its white population—after Northerners decided to militarily coerce the cotton states back into the Union.

Most discussion group members don’t like to explain why the North chose to fight because it might disclose the violent tyranny of their ancestors. One reason, which they are loath to even consider, is that Northerners wanted to avoid the economic consequences of disunion. The loss of New York’s dominance in cotton trade and the impact of low Confederate tariffs on Northern industry—which would thereby lose markets in the Southern states to European manufacturers—would likely have triggered an economic depression.

As a fall-back, the controlling group of board members next typically point to Fort Sumter as the reason Northerners chose to fight. But there are two problems with that. First, if the fort’s garrison had abandoned it and returned to the North there would have been no Southern call to fire on Sumter. Second, even after it was bombarded (without fatalities) Northerners could have declined to escalate the episode into a war.

When I mentioned the second point in one online group, it was immediately ridiculed. I was asked to provide an example of when the United States ever “appeased” such an affront. When I cited North Korea’s 1968 seizure of the U. S. S. Pueblopresently again in the news—the censors erased my remark because “the Pueblo incident happened in the modern era and is therefore not applicable to Civil War discussion.”

Yet the same forum permitted a lengthy thread about racial lynchings in the South including examples that were well within the twentieth century and all of which were beyond the group’s “official” 1877 cutoff for discussion content. The censors had no objection to that confab because . . . well, that’s different, see?

California Racism & Confederate Statues

(June 9, 2018) Notwithstanding that California gave Hillary a larger percentage of its vote than any other state save Hawaii, the first six minutes of the video below show that racism may be more prevalent in the Golden State than is commonly believed. It is one of a series of videos produced by a group of Los Angeles male YouTube pranksters. They approach attractive young ladies in a public setting to strike up conversations. Their purpose is to invite the girls to lunch, or a cup of coffee. Failing in that they try for the phone numbers. Initially the guys are turned-down until the girls realize that the boys own Lamborghinis. Then the young ladies invariably want to go for a ride. But the boys bluntly tell them that they are no longer interested because the girls demonstrated that they are merely gold diggers.

[Learn more about Civil War and Reconstruction at My Amazon Author Page]

In the instance below a black youth tries to initiate a conversation with a beautiful white girl inside a convenience store. The girl soon flatly says, “I don’t really talk to black guys.” The shocked and hurt young man leaves the store to stand next to his Lamborghini in the store’s parking lot. When the girl walks by the car she has a change of heart and begs the guy to take her for a ride. She even suggests that he take her to his house. When he tells her that he changed his mind because of her earlier racist remark, she audaciously denied ever speaking it.

While the alt-left academic historians and their acolytes dedicate themselves to the mass removal of Confederate statues as their method of attacking contemporary racism, they piously ignore present racism outside the South. Presumably, California’s one-sided vote for Hillary partly reflected her disdain for Confederate symbols. When asked about the Rebel Flag then flying on the state capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina she said, “I don’t think it should fly there and I don’t think it should fly anywhere.”

The social justice warriors that want to erase Confederate heritage by removing Confederate statues and symbols should first focus on the planks in their own eyes instead of piously condemning Southerners as uniquely evil racists. But that’s about as likely as a Cherokee Indian getting elected Pope.

Lucky Luciano’s Unlucky Stroll

(June 6, 2018) The following is an edited excerpt from my latest book, The Devil’s Town: Hot Springs During the Gangster Era. It concerns the arrest, extradition, and trial of Charles “Lucky” Luciano who headed the American Mafia during the 1930s and half the 1940s.

Lucky Luciano’s Unlucky Stroll

When Prohibition ended in 1933 former bootleggers had to find other income sources. Some turned to narcotics, prostitution, and gambling, but one of the biggest opportunities was industrial racketeering. Although traditionally hired as strike breakers, mobsters increasingly learned that they could extort both the labor and management sides of vulnerable industries. After gaining control of labor unions they could require employers to pay illegal fees to end a strike, or to insure that one was prevented. Conversely, company managements could hire the mobsters as strikebreakers against unions that the hoodlums did not yet control. After pummeling strikers, mobsters might have sufficiently intimidated the workers to gain control of the applicable union and thereafter extort money from either the union or the companies employing its workers.

Although industrial racketeering increasingly made newspaper headlines, corrupted politicians were reluctant to act. The port of New York was one of the most vulnerable victims. As a matter of economic efficiency, cargo ships needed to be quickly loaded and unloaded. Each ship could ill-afford to stand idle while longshoremen refused to load or remove its cargo. Ship owners were better off simply paying whatever bribes the Longshoremen’s Union might demand instead of trying to reach negotiated settlements on a ship-by-ship basis. Normally the illegal fees taken by the unions were large enough to share with corrupt politicians who were thereby motivated to prevent police from interfering on the waterfront.

Finally, in 1935 one New York grand jury had had enough. They demanded a broad industrial racketeering investigation. The designated assistant district attorney tried instead to steer the jury toward scrutinizing local chapters of the Communist Party, which he suggested were responsible. As in Hot Springs, New York grand juries were often politically controlled. This one, however, became a run away jury that rejected the Communist conspiracy theory. Despite the assistant DA’s efforts to deter them, the jury petitioned the governor to appoint a special prosecutor. As a result, thirty-four year old Thomas E. Dewey, who would later become and a New York governor and twice run for President, was selected to investigate and prosecute New York racketeers.

At age twenty-eight—before returning to private practice—Dewey had earlier become the chief assistant to the federal judge assigned to New York’s most important federal district. When later recruited from private practice to spearhead the prosecution of racketeering, Dewey assembled a staff of twenty lawyers between the ages of 25 and 40, composed mostly of Harvard or Columbia graduates. He also brought in accountants and a crew of youthful police who were less likely to be corrupted than veterans. Finally, he located his team’s offices in a commercial building far from the government facilities where possibly compromised government workers might learn, and pass along, information that could help the suspected criminals.

Despite his best efforts, however, it proved difficult to accumulate enough evidence to charge any notorious mobster with industrial racketeering even though Dewey’s team was convinced that many were guilty. They initially targeted Dutch Schultz who had narrowly escaped tax evasion charges that Dewey had prepared against him a couple of years earlier.  Schultz unexpectedly beat the charge in 1935 by having the trial shifted to a small upstate New York town where he spent liberally at various businesses and gave generously to local charities during the trial.

When Schultz learned that Dewey was coming after him again, but this time for racketeering, he asked Luciano for permission to assassinate Dewey. After Lucky consulted other Mafia leaders, the group concluded that instead of Dewey, it was Schultz who should be executed. They wanted to stop him from killing Dewey because such a murder would trigger unprecedented law enforcement retaliation against the Mafia in general. It would also likely cause corruptible judges to cease cooperating with the Mob. As a result, contract gangsters assassinated Schultz only days before he had hoped to kill Dewey himself.

Schultz’s murder forced Dewey to select a second prosecution target. Unfortunately for Luciano, Dewey chose him. It happened almost by accident. One Dewey team member had previously practiced in the women’s court where prostitution cases were heard. She noticed that many of the girls used the same bondsmen, which suggested that the city’s oldest profession was managed by a structured, although illegal, organization. Partly because the victims were themselves criminals, Dewey was reluctant to expose racketeering within prostitution. Nonetheless, he gave the green light to further investigations.   

Gradually the team learned that the girls earned about $300 weekly. Typically half went to the madam, while $30 was allotted to meals and medical exams. The remaining $120 was left for the prostitutes, which many shared with their pimps. Each madam paid $10 weekly for each employed girl into a fund used to pay lawyers and bondsmen as needed. A total of about 2,000 women were working in about 300 bordellos. Two otherwise insignificant Luciano underlings managed the entire operation. They dropped his name only rarely such as at times when it might prompt uncooperative participants to pay the required Mafia fees.

Charles “Lucky” Luciano

After a few months Dewey arranged a massive police raid that rounded up about a hundred women. Although judges routinely released them quickly on a $300 bond each—or a $25-each payoff—Dewey was able to get the bonds set at $10,000 this time. As a result, the women remained in jail while Dewey’s team questioned them relentlessly to collect additional evidence. Among the male prisoners were bookers and pimps who were threatened with long jail sentences. Ultimately a number of bookers, madams, and prostitutes agreed to testify and finger Luciano as the head of the management organization.

Before Dewey was prepared to spring the indictments he first persuaded the New York State Legislature to change a law that required that only one charge in an indictment could be tried at a time. A new law replacing it allowed multiple charges to be consolidated into a single indictment. That was important for two reasons. First, without it each charge would otherwise need to be tried separately. Second, prostitution’s inherent characteristics meant that participants normally commit violations multiple times. Ultimately Luciano would be arraigned on over ninety counts of compulsory prostitution.

At the time of the Dewey investigation Lucky occupied a $7,000 a year three-room luxury suite under the name of Charles Ross at the Waldorf-Astoria on Park Avenue. He spread money around liberally in order to protect his interests. Among other informants he paid Waldorf clerks and doormen to alert him whenever unfamiliar persons inquired about either Luciano or Ross. He was alone in the suite one day when a clerk phoned to say that a group of men, possibly detectives, had inquired about Ross and were on the way to the room.

Luciano quickly left the building via a freight elevator with nothing but the clothes on his back. He drove to Philadelphia where he met the local Mafia boss, Harry “Nig” Rosen who gave Lucky a Cadillac with Tennessee plates. While in town he bought a new wardrobe and borrowed $25,000 from Rosen.

To the hapless New York police it appeared as though Luciano had simply vanished. Soon police forces launched a multistate manhunt all along the east coast. After learning that he was the target, Lucky drove to Cleveland, left the Cadillac at a train station and bought two tickets for Hot Springs. In order to avoid loneliness while on the lam, he persuaded girlfriend Gay Orlova to meet him in Cleveland and accompany him to Hot Springs. Orlova was a gorgeous Broadway showgirl bold enough about her sex appeal to pose for nude photos in the 1930s. After arriving in Hot Springs in mid-March 1936, Luciano contacted Owney Madden who had moved to Hot Springs after becoming one of New York’s biggest mobsters during Prohibition. Madden introduced Lucky to influential town residents, including potentially helpful law enforcement and other government officials. Among them was Herbert “Dutch” Akers who was the top detective for Police Chief Joe Wakelin. Luciano and Akers quickly became friendly.

Luciano and Orlova settled in for an extended vacation. Sometimes Lucky visited the Central Avenue clubs where he’d place bets with bookies for horses running at Miami’s Tropical Park or Chicago’s Arlington track. Sometimes he’d gamble at club tables, which might involve taking a seat in poker games that included Nick Dandolos, better known as Nick the Greek. Lucky, however, avoided the marathon sessions that Nick relished.

Later Orlova would join him for evenings of dining and dancing at spots like the Club Belvedere. Owney and his Hot Springs bred wife, Agnes, sometimes joined them. New York subordinates phoned Luciano each morning with updates on Dewey, city police activities, general reports on Mafia business and requests for instructions on matters requiring the boss’s decision. Afterwards he might take in the morning air with a stroll along a broad walkway known as Bathhouse Row that paralleled Central Avenue.

During one such walk with detective Akers on April Fools’ Day 1936 the two unexpectedly came across New York detective John Brennan who knew Lucky personally. Brennan was in town on another case involving a theft in Yonkers, New York.  A widespread wanted poster for the Yonkers thief, displaying pictures of both the man and his pet dog, caught the attention of the Hot Springs police weeks earlier. They soon arrested a visitor fitting the description. Once the detainee was confirmed as the suspect, Brennan went to Hot Springs to return him to New York. While waiting for the extradition papers to be completed, Brennan took a morning walk that resulted in the chance meeting with Luciano and Akers.

As he was walking along Bathhouse Row, Luciano recognized Brennan and asked him what he was doing in Hot Springs, so far from New York. Brennan answered that he was in town to extradite the Yonkers robbery suspect whom, he added, Hot Springs Police Chief Wakelin and detective Akers had arrested. After Akers verified the explanation for Luciano, Brennan asked the New York mobster if he was aware that Dewey had obtained an arrest warrant thereby triggering  a multi-state  manhunt for him on the east coast.  Brennan concluded by asking Luciano to let him take the gangster back to New York along with the suspected Yonkers thief.

Luciano instead asked that Brennan pretend the two of them did not meet while Brennan was in Hot Springs. Brennan declined because if he got caught at the lie he’d lose his job, among other consequences. Before they separated Brennan asked Lucky where he was staying. The Mafia boss answered,  “The Arlington.” Next Lucky contacted Owney and asked that the latter recommend a lawyer. Owney suggested Richard Ryan.

Brennan pondered his next move. Due to the fact that Lucky was obviously on good terms with local detective Akers, Brennan decided to inform Dewey’s team and let them decide the next move. Since Dewey was out of the office when Brennan phoned, the detective talked to an assistant who recommended that Brennan arrest Luciano immediately but added that the New York cop should get help from the [Arkansas] Garland County sheriff. Early that same afternoon Brennan and a deputy sheriff arrested Lucky and took him to the jail at the county courthouse.

Lawyer Ryan quickly filed for a writ of habeas corpus with local chancellor Sam Garrett who ordered that the mobster be released on a $5,000 bond. Madden financed the bond thereby getting Lucky released the same day he was arrested.

It didn’t last. After having issued a 90-count indictment against Lucky, Dewey blew his stack when he learned that the mobster had been released on a trivial $5,000 bail. He held a New York press conference to announce that he could not understand how any judge could set such a low bail. Dewey amplified his consternation by emphasizing with dismay that that Luciano was probably America’s most notorious mobster. In telephone calls to Arkansas Governor Junius Futrell and the state’s Attorney General Carl Bailey, Dewey added that the New York prosecutors were holding Luciano’s top lieutenant on a $75,000 bond and were holding thirty men and eighty prostitutes as witnesses against Luciano.

Governor Futrell phoned Garrett the same day of the writ ruling and ordered that Luciano be brought back into custody. An astonished Garrett sent two deputies sheriff to tell the gangster that his bond was revoked and he must return to jail. Although an irate Luciano had no choice but to comply, Sheriff Jim Floyd tried to soften the blow. He told Lucky that he could use the sheriff’s office for phone calls and even let Gay visit her jailed boyfriend as often as she wanted. Meanwhile, Dewey told reporters that he had suggested a new bond of $200,000 and was putting one of his aides on a flight to Hot Springs that very night.

While a member of Dewey’s team hurried toward Hot Springs, Luciano’s top New York lawyer, Moses Pokaloff, was also flying there. Meanwhile Hot Springs city attorney, Sonny Davies, joined Luciano’s local defense team. Davies was also a law partner in a firm that included Municipal Judge Verne Ledgerwood. Consequently, Luciano’s legal team asked for a hearing at Ledgerwood’s court that resulted in the mobster’s arrest for a lesser charge. They intended that the lesser charge would legally require that Lucky remain in Hot Springs thereby preventing his removal to New York.

When Arkansas State Attorney General Carl Bailey learned of the tactic he travelled to Hot Springs with state rangers to take Luciano to Little Rock, the state capital. After a Hot Springs judge ruled against Bailey, the Garland County sheriff took Luciano into custody. Bailey regrouped and arrived before sunup the next day with a dozen heavily armed state rangers. This time Luciano was taken to Little Rock under armed guard where he would later appear before a hearing to extradite him to New York.

Three days before the hearing Bailey was visited by a stranger who described himself only as “Charlie’s friend.”  The visitor added that he understood Bailey wanted to become governor in the next election and suggested that a $50,000 campaign contribution might help. Bailey declined the implied offer.

The Little Rock hearing was held on April 6, 1936 before Governor Futrell. After the testimony of several New York witnesses the governor ruled that Charlie’s guilt or innocence was not to be decided in Arkansas, but instead in New York. He explained that his only authority was to determine whether Luciano was in New York on the date of the offense specified in Dewey’s warrant. Announcing that witnesses answered the pertinent question decisively, the governor signed the extradition papers.

Since a federal court had been involved in moving the hearing to Little Rock, a federal judge—beyond the control of state officials—granted Charlie’s lawyers ten days to file an appeal. Luciano’s Little Rock attorney assumed that the ten-day deadline would end on 17 April, whereas it actually ended at midnight 16 April. In contrast, state Attorney General Bailey did not mistake the deadline. He asked that a passenger train scheduled to leave Little Rock for St. Louis at midnight be delayed until 12:05 AM so that a heavily guarded Luciano could be put on board. When a connecting train arrived in New York, Dewey greeted Luciano in the company of forty-eight police officers.

Luciano’s New York trial lasted about thirty days during May and June 1936. He denied any connection to the two underlings who managed the prostitution business. Unfortunately for him, Dewey had sixty-eight witnesses. Among them were employees of the Waldorf-Astoria who testified that they had seen Charlie in discussions with the two operational subordinates, noted earlier, in his hotel suite. Additionally, telephone records confirmed many conversations between Luciano and the underlings.

One of the prostitutes also testified that she had overhead incriminating conversations when her pimp took her to the hotel room. Another said she had been invited to spend time with Lucky in his bedroom on several occasions and overheard similar conversation prior to retiring to the bedroom. To undermine the gangster’s credibility, Dewey forced the obviously wealthy Luciano to admit that he could not explain why his annual tax returns from 1929 to 1935 never reported income of more than $22,500. Finally, the prosecutor forced Lucky to confess his long arrest record and history of association with other well-known gangsters.

Luciano was convicted on sixty-two counts of compulsory prostitution and sentenced to thirty to fifty years in state prison. Since he was not personally involved in overseeing the business, he was stunned by the verdict. His lawyers appealed the case. Despite the fact that three witnesses—including one of the prostitutes who claimed to have overheard incriminating conversations—recanted their testimony, the verdict stood. Dewey rebutted the retractions with evidence that they were perjuries, which Luciano minions obtained by intimidating drug-addicted witnesses. As a result, Lucky was first sent to Sing Sing and then the Clinton prison at Dannemora in upstate New York near the Canadian border. Criminals informally referred to the latter as Siberia.

Even in prison Luciano retained the status of a Mafia godfather. Although assigned to work in the prison laundry room, he paid other prisoners to do his work in exchange for gifts. Other men were similarly bribed to clean his cell and perform all his other unpleasant chores. He spent most of his Dannemora time playing cards and strolling around the grounds as other prisoners sought audiences with him. He was still nominally in charge of his Mafia kingdom because, by tradition, a boss’s throne could only be relinquished by death or abdication.

Before entering prison, he delegated administrative authority for his Mob family to Frank Costello, who climbed the Mafia ladder via his True Mint Novelty Company, which was a slot machine enterprise hidden under the facade of a candy vending machine operation. Even though in prison, however, Luciano continued to hold ultimate authority.

Shortly after America entered World War II, federal authorities negotiated secretly with Luciano. They asked that he use his influence over the Longshoremen’s Union to prevent strikes as well as to detect and combat potential enemy sabotage missions along the waterfront. The unexplained sinking of the French passenger liner S.S. Normandie as it was being converted into a troop carrier at Manhattan’s pier 88 only a few months after the United States formally entered the war triggered the discussions.

Luciano agreed to help and tried to negotiate a sentence reduction. The following year he also volunteered to provide contacts in Italy in order to aid the Allied invasion of that country. Although his appeal for a sentence reduction was rejected in 1943, federal officials appreciated his attempts to assist the war effort. After the war ended then-Governor Dewey gave Luciano executive clemency on the condition that he agree to be deported, with the understanding that if he ever returned to the United States he would be treated as an escaped prisoner. On February 10, 1946 Lucky waved goodbye to New York and set sail for Sicily. It was the last time he would see the United States.

Although he never became the central antagonist in a television series like Al Capone in The Untouchables, Charles Luciano was as powerful a mobster as any who reached the top of the American underworld. It may be noted, for example, that Frank Costello remained subordinate to Luciano while the latter was in prison even though Costello inspired the Vito Corleone character in Mario Puzo’s, The Godfather. As shall be discussed, Hot Springs also figured-in to Costello’s biography.