Ness, Eliott (1903-1957) - U.S. Treasury Dept.

Born Chicago, IL, April 19, 1903.

Died Coudersport, PA, May 16, 1957.

While Eliot Ness was not quite the one-man show depicted on television and radio and in the movies, he was a key player in the government's assault on Al Capone's Chicago crime empire.
Ness led a band of eight young men, titled the "Special Prohibition Unit" but remembered as "The Untouchables" for their refusal of enormous bribe offers. The group conducted a frontal assault against Capone's bootleg brewery operations while other government agencies picked away the crime lord's underbosses and allies and assembled the tax evasion case that would jail Capone in 1931.

Ness later led a municipal police force as Cleveland's Director of Public Safety in the late 1930s. In the job, he thoroughly modernized the city's police department while cracking down on corruption, violent labor activity, gambling and contraband alcohol. News headlines largely ignored his successes, however, and focused on the decapitation murder cases in the Kingsbury Run area that stymied Ness and on his anti-labor image. Ness saw additional bad press as the result of a drunk driving accident in 1942 and was forced to resign his post.

In 1947, former safety director Ness ran as a Republican for mayor of Cleveland. He lost the Nov. 4 election in a landslide to Democrat Thomas A. Burke, having sacrificed much of his personal wealth in the campaign.

Ness eventually left public service and became president of the Guaranty Paper Company and the North Bridge Industrial Corp. in Pennsylvania. He died at his home in Coudersport, PA, on May 16, 1957 (his remains reportedly were cremated), just before his autobiographical "The Untouchables" was published. The book, which exaggerated Ness's importance in the Capone fight and glossed over his failings, became enormously popular and spawned the myth of Eliot Ness.

The Untouchables by Eliot Ness with Oscar Fraley.