Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story From Inside His Family
By Patrick Douglas
Deidre Marie Capone was 18 years old when she was fired from a job at an insurance company because of her last name. It wasn’t the first time she had been persecuted for simply sharing the same blood as a man who many considered awful.
She was in second grade when her famous uncle Al Capone died and word of her lineage spread like wildfire until no one wanted to be near her for fear of her family.
Years later, Deidre’s two youngest children began to ask about their famous relative while attending college in Chicago and she felt a wave of déjà vu. It was then that Deidre knew the story of her famous uncle had to be told.
Her book, Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story From Inside His Family, is currently the number four best-selling novel on Amazon.com and is creating a buzz from history buffs who can’t seem to turn away from all of the great stories within.
“My children were the impetus,” said Deidre in an interview with the Tribune from her home near Naples, Fla. “I was afraid to tell them (of their heritage). They would see references to Al Capone that were really derogatory and disrespectful.”
“The Capone DNA is surging in their bodies and it didn’t feel good for them as it never did for me,” she continued.
Historians have generally picked up facts about her family based on other books and newspaper articles that oftentimes embellished falsehoods, according to Deidre. She felt it was time to set the records straight.
“I was growing up and I’d read something in the paper that was just not true,” she recalled. “Now, these researchers and the people that are going out and writing these other books … they go back and read old newspaper articles and they’re not accurate.”
Deidre pointed out one myth in particular that is presented as fact in many accounts of Al Capone and his youth.
“I see so many things stating that Al Capone quit school in the sixth grade. He did not,” she said. “My grandfather (Ralph) had to quit school but all the other siblings graduated high school and some went to college and finishing school and people don’t know that. They were very smart and well educated.”
One of Deidre Capone’s most controversial claims regarding her Uncle Al’s legacy involves his association with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in which seven associates of rival Bugs Moran were murdered in Chicago.
“My family told me the real story about the Valentine’s Day Massacre,” said the now 71-year-old Deidre. “The people that committed the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre were policemen and were working in conjunction with some of the top businessmen in Chicago and they did it to point the finger at Al Capone because that was all part of this plot to get rid of him.”
“They wanted Al Capone gone before the World’s Fair was to be in Chicago in 1935,” she added.
Al Capone was never convicted of the shooting but was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison and in 1934 was transferred to the newly built and very first maximum security prison, Alcatraz. He served five years on the island in a six-by-nine cell before he was released in 1939.
When Deidre went to the famous island prison for the first time, she cried.
“Al Capone should never have been to Alcatraz,” said Deidre, who recalled reading a sign on the ferryboat featuring a quote from the first warden of the prison. “He said ‘Alcatraz was created to incarcerate irredeemable men.” That was not Al Capone.”
“He was convicted of a white collar crime,” she continued. “For heaven’s sakes, right now in our government there are people who owe the government a lot more than Al Capone ever owed and they’ve never even seen a judge.”
“Uncle Al,” features sometimes funny anecdotes about the family as well as nuggets of information that people haven’t been exposed to in history books.
She mentioned the time that Al’s older brother Ralph paid a judge $47,000 in fees and owed taxes in pennies, supplied in trucks.
There’s also the time Al Capone wanted to buy the Cubs from then owner William Wrigley and knowing that the commissioner of baseball wouldn’t approve, he thought of asking one of his friends, maybe Jack Dempsey or Al Jolson to pose as a fake owner in his stead.
Her grandfather, Ralph, recalled a story in which he asked Al Capone how he would acquire the team to which he replied “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
Then, according to Deidre, Al Capone planned on buying out Babe Ruth from the Yankees. He even planned on buying Satchel Paige’s contract and making him the first African American to play in the big leagues.
Deidre was seven when Al Capone, the notorious Scarface, died from a stroke in 1947 but she remembers the man vividly. She still recalls the time she fell out of a tree and had the wind knocked out of her and Al Capone was there to comfort her as she regained composure.
Her best memories are of the times the family would get together for meals, an epic adventure that would last for days.
“My grandmother, when she would cook, she’d start cooking dinner and planning dinner on Friday,” said Deidre, who included a few Capone family recipes in the book. “To have all the family be together for these dinners every Sunday and when Al would walk in the place, the party began.”
“It was like he arrived and the family was whole and complete and that’s the way I felt about him,” she said. “He was a very important person in the Capone family.”
Deidre was close to her grandfather and Al’s older brother Ralph and had him and his vast cache of stories until he died when she was 34. Together, the two elder Capone’s ran one of Chicago’s most infamous gangs, the Chicago Outfit.
“My grandfather really ran the business and anybody that knows their history of the mob, they know that Ralph Capone actually ran the business,” she said. “At one point, my grandfather told me he was running 300 different businesses.”
“Now what were those businesses? They were alcohol, they were gambling and they were prostitution,” she added. “All three of those things were what people wanted. There was never anybody that was made to go and gamble at the horses. Nobody was ever made to go and sit down at the speakeasy and have a drink. Nobody forced anybody into a house of prostitution.”
“Those are the things that people wanted,” said Deidre. “My grandfather and my uncle had this idea that they were providing something and they wanted it to be top quality.”
“This country wanted booze and I organized it,” Al Capone is quoted in the book as saying. “Why should I be called a ‘public enemy?’”
Deidre Capone doesn’t try to exonerate her Uncle Al completely in the book. Her compelling stories reveal the man as a warm and kind individual who displayed a gentle and protective hand to those he cared about and brutality towards men who weren’t exactly saints.
“You need to know the real Al Capone,” she said. “There’s absolutely no person on Earth who can write that book, except me.”
Art courtesy of Deidre Marie Capone.