4 – Jack McGurn
McGurn received the ‘Machine Gun’ designation before George Kelly but his real name was Vincenzo Gibaldi, and he was born in Sicily in 1902. His family moved to the United States when he was just four years of age, and they lived in the Brooklyn slums. McGurn moved to Chicago aged 14 and became a boxer a couple of years later. He changed his name to ‘Battling’ Jack McGurn because pugilists with Irish sounding names received better bookings and payment.
He stayed away from gang-related activity until 1923 when his stepfather was murdered by extortionists from the Black Hand gang. Apparently, the three killers mocked the victim by saying he was a “nickel and dimer.” McGurn took swift and brutal revenge by killing all three men; he left a nickel in the hands of each of the victims. This act later became his trademark. Al Capone learned of McGurn’s deeds and was so impressed that he hired him as an enforcer. McGurn had probably come to the mob boss’ attention when he was a boxer because he was on the Outfit’s payroll before the murders.
It is strongly suggested that he was one of the two gunmen that killed Hymie Weiss in 1926. Further evidence of McGurn’s violent tendencies is seen in his brutal attempted murder of a singer/comedian called Joe E. Lewis. McGurn had part ownership of a speakeasy jazz club on Bugs Moran’s territory. The club’s manager, Danny Cohen, gave McGurn money to try and ‘persuade’ Lewis to perform as the singer was one of the city’s most popular entertainers. When Lewis refused, McGurn cut off part of his tongue and slit his throat. Lewis somehow survived and resumed his career, but he never reached his previous heights again.
While McGurn is believed to have helped plan the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, his role in the crime was never proven. In 1930, McGurn had the dubious honor of being named #4 on the Chicago Crime Commission’s Public Enemies list. This unwanted attention resulted in McGurn’s isolation from other gangs as no one wanted to be associated with him. He was arrested at the Olympia Fields Country Club in 1933 when he was taking part in a golf tournament.
In 1936, the once powerful McGurn was practically broke and friendless. He was an easy target for the three hit men who approached him in a bowling alley in Chicago and opened fire on February 15. He was killed instantly in what was probably long overdue retribution for the Valentine’s Day Massacre and/or the murder of Weiss. It is likely that Moran ordered the hit which may have been carried out by James Gusenberg, the brother of two of the victims of the massacre.