O’Hare Airport in Chicago
A Story Thanks to the City of St. Louis…
Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Column published July 23, 2000
Consider the case of one Eddie O’Hare. He was born in St. Louis in 1896 and raised in humble circumstances. His father, Paddy O’Hare, ran a small saloon downtown, and the family lived on the near north side. Eddie was baptized at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on North 6th Street.
He grew up to be smart, tough and ambitious. He went to law school at St. Louis University, and then got involved in Democratic politics. He was mostly a behind-the-scenes guy. Quite successful. Then came disaster and disgrace. Considering his background, it’s not surprising that prohibition did him in. He was one of 23 men indicted in the notorious Jack Daniel’s “milking” scandal in 1926. The fellows managed to siphon off 891 barrels of whiskey that the government was storing for medicinal purposes. The whiskey was then sold on the black market. Many of the indictees were politically prominent, including a state senator, an Internal Revenue collector, and the former circuit clerk of the city. Eddie was convicted in U.S. District Court, but successfully appealed and then was acquitted. Still, the scandal stuck to him, and he moved to Chicago. His wife and 3 kids remained in St. Louis. They liven on Holly Hills Boulevard. They had a swimming pool. Obviously, Eddie was doing well in Chicago. Among other things, he was in the dog-track business. His partner was Al Capone. It came out much later that Eddie used his inside knowledge of Capone’s business dealings to help the government convict the mobster. According to accounts published much later, Eddie was instrumental in providing witnesses against Capone. But once again, he was a behind-the-scenes guy. What did he get for his help?? According to these same accounts, he wanted his son to be able to go to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. At the time of Capone’s trial, Eddie’s son was a senior at the Western Military Academy in Alton. The young man was appointed to the Naval Academy.
Eddie, meantime, continued living the fast life in Chicago. His wife, still in St. Louis, eventually divorced him. And then in 1939, Eddie’s past caught up with him. As he left a racetrack with a loaded pistol on the seat beside him, 3 cars began chasing him. He sped away, heading for downtown. As the pursing cars began to close on him, Eddie hit the brakes and tried to turn. His car skidded into a pole, and one of the pursuing cars pulled up next to him. A gunman stuck a shotgun into Eddie’s car—2 blasts. The cops figured it was Capone hit. The gangster was due to get out of prison and may have wanted to even some scores before hitting the streets—but who knows??
Eddie’s body was put on a train and brought back to St. Louis. A special car of Dignitaries accompanied the body. Among them was a racing associate from Chicago, Charles Bidwell. Twenty one years later, one of the Bidwell’s sons would bring a football team to St. Louis. Another one of the dignitaries was Robert E. Hannegan, a St. Louis power broker who had gone to Chicago to supervise the return of the body. Hannegan was later to become postmaster general in the Truman administration.
The funeral was held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and was attended by all sorts of political people. The newspaper published a partial list of the mourners. My favorite name was State Representative Edward “Putty Nose” Brady. The newspaper also mentioned how dignified the service was.
“It was a simple funeral for O’Hare—nothing like the gaudy displays made in the days when his former friend, Capone, was at the height of his power in Chicago. There was no floral clock with the hands set at the exact time of the murder”.
In the story about the funeral, there was a brief mention that Eddie’s son had come home for the funeral. The young man was by then a naval pilot, stationed at Pensacola, Florida. The appointment had worked out nicely.
Less than three years later, the young man shot down five Japanese bombers in February, 1942. He went to Washington, D.C., where President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt personally awarded his the Congressional Medal of Honor. He then visited St. Louis, before returning to combat in the Pacific. He did not survive the war, but such was his fame that Chicago renames its new airport after him--- O’Hare International Airport.