Most people have heard of Al Capone, the notorious mob boss who ran Chicago from his criminal headquarters during the waning years of Prohibition. Less well known is Capone’s eldest brother, James, who took a completely different career path.
If you never heard of him, that was all part of his plan. Unlike little brother Al, James felt called into a completely different vocation: law enforcement. While Al Capone made millions from the illegal manufacture and sale of alcohol, his brother devoted his energies to combatting bootleggers as a federal Prohibition enforcement agent.
Since having the name Capone could cause people to wonder whether he was free from his brother’s influence, James decided to change his name. Taking some inspiration from his favorite cowboy movie star, William S. Hart, he legally adopted the name Richard James Hart. It wasn’t until after Al’s death in 1947 that newspaper reporters discovered the family connection. Until then, he continued to be known by his changed name or, more commonly, by the nickname “Two-Gun” Hart. That moniker was earned after a series of successful raids against bootleggers, thus further distancing him from the identity — and the activities — of his notorious younger sibling.
Throughout his career in law enforcement, James served as a special agent in the Bureau of Indian Affair, serving on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, the Spokane Indian Reservation, and the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. It was during this time that he assisted the United States Secret Service in protecting President Calvin Coolidge during his visits to South Dakota. As a federal Prohibition agent, he worked primarily from Homer, Nebraska. Upon the repeal of Prohibition, he became a justice of the peace. He died in 1952 at the age of 60 from a heart attack.
History remembers Al “Scarface” Capone as the epitome of organized crime. Thanks to the faithful service of his big brother, we now know for certain that criminality is not a genetic trait.
Categories: Careers, Crime, Government, History, Presidents, US History
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