We all know crime fighter Eliot Ness brought down Chicago mobster Al Capone, right?
Not quite. Ness spent the best years of his life in a hunt to put Capone behind bars, but he had less to do with the final outcome than legend has it. Ness retired from federal law enforcement in his prime, then worked as a public safety official in Ohio. His personal life became a mess and he died at age 54.
Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin are pushing to name the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after Ness. This has prompted a delicious debate about Chicago history during Prohibition.
Alderman Ed Burke, the City Council’s resident historian, has dismissed the famous lawman. “Eliot Ness had a checkered career after leaving the federal government,” Burke said. “I simply do not think his image matches the actual reality of his legacy.”
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