IN THIS ISSUE|
· In Memoriam-Alvin J. Sutton, Jr.
· This Week in Mob History
Alvin J. Sutton, Jr.
1918 - 2001
On September 1 I lost one of my heroes and Cleveland lost a legendary lawman.
Alvin J. Sutton, Jr., a former FBI agent and the youngest man ever to be appointed Safety Director of the city of Cleveland, died of a stroke at the age of 83. Please read my biography of Al Sutton at http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_8-16-99.html.
What follows are my warm memories of Al.
My original plan was to write a history of the Cleveland Police Department, and that goal is still very much alive. I had sent a letter to Sergeant Mark Hastings in the public relations department he responded and suggested that I contact Alvin J. Sutton, Jr. an ex-safety director. Mark gave me Sutton’s telephone number and I called to see if we could get together.
Sutton was agreeable and asked me to meet him at the Westwood Country Club in one of the western suburbs outside Cleveland. On a mild January afternoon in 1998, I arrived at the country club at 11:30 a.m. and waited for over an hour. Sutton never showed. When I arrived home, there were two messages from Al saying he had to be taken to the hospital due to a coughing fit. He was very apologetic and asked if I could meet him again the following Saturday, same time, same place.
This time Al was only 35 minutes late. I recognized him right away. I had been introduced to him once at an annual meeting of the Cleveland Police Historical Society, and I had seen him at the memorial service for Eliot Ness at Lake View Cemetery which I helped initiate. Al was in his early eighties and walked with a pronounced shuffle. He was treated like royalty by the kind staff at Westwood.
Al was not alone upon his arrival. As I got up and introduced myself, he said to me, "This is Gus."
I said hello to Gus and introduced myself.
"You ought to write a book about Gus," Al stated.
"What does Gus do?" I inquired.
"He worked for Leaseway trucking," Al replied.
Now there’s a best seller waiting to be written I thought to myself.
The three of us sat down and ordered lunch and made small talk as we ate. Afterwards, I was ready with my tape recorder, pad of paper and list of questions. "Tell me about Moe Dalitz?" I asked.
Sutton’s eyes narrowed as he told me, "Tough guy."
I stared at him for several seconds waiting for him to finish his description, but no additional information was forth coming.
Tell me about Lou Rothkopf?" I asked next.
Again, Sutton’s eyes narrowed as he repeated "Tough guy," and nothing more.
Al gave me the same response to Al Polizzi, Chuck Polizzi and Morris Kleinman. Sometimes he would tell me a story and then stop right in the middle of it and stare at me. It was a bit unnerving, not to mention getting me nowhere. Sometimes I would ask him a question and he would look over at Gus who would be leaning back in his chair with his arms folded.
"Is it OK to answer that?" he would ask Gus.
Gus would respond by nodding his head.
Al told me he thought that John F. Kennedy was the worst president the country ever had. I responded by telling him about how Joseph Kennedy had been involved with Frank Costello in rum running during Prohibition. Al made some remark about Costello being an infamous mob figure, calling him "Frankie." I responded by reminding him that "Frankie" used to give Al’s old boss, J. Edgar Hoover, horse race tips in Central Park. Wrong thing to remind Al about.
"Bull shit!" Al replied. "When the lion dies, the rats come out."
With this I decided not to talk about Clyde Tolson and the dresses in the closet or any of the other sordid details of the director’s private life. After an hour and fifteen minutes I walked out of the country club - with absolutely nothing!
Two days later, I arrived home after work on Monday evening. I had five messages from Al on my telephone voice mail. I soon found out that Al would never leave less than three messages when he wanted to talk to me. I called him that night and he asked me if I would come out to his office the following Saturday afternoon. He said he had some files for me to look at. I couldn’t imagine what he still had since he told me he had sent most of his files over to the Western Reserve Historical Society. He would later call Dr. John Grabowski there and ask him to let me have access to the information. Dr. Grabowski agreed, as long as I was willing to pay to look at it.
Saturday afternoon, I went to Sutton’s office on Ridge Road. When I left there I had files folders a foot and a half thick. I don’t know what Sutton gave the historical society, but what he gave me was his personal files from the Kefauver investigations with actual police records, photographs, financial records, and confidential memos. I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t believe all of the information I was handed. It took me weeks to go through it all.
Al became my biggest fan and I became a fan of his. Every time we met he always had encouraging things to say to me about my writing and how someday I was going to make it big. Although Al was slowing down he still had a sharp memory and never lost his ability to kid around with me.
Al and I continued to stay in touch over the years. We would meet at Westwood for lunch, sometimes with Al’s friend, former Cleveland sports writer Chuck Heaton, whose talented daughter is an Emmy award winning actress on the show "Everybody Loves Raymond." One of Al’s closest friends was former Cleveland Indians’ great Bob Feller.
From the information I received from Al I wrote the story for this website about Sutton called "Cleveland’s Forgotten G-Man." When I received a contract to have a compilation of my columns published in book form I asked to have a picture of Al with Senator Kefauver placed on the cover. The book was to be released in April 2000. It didn’t come out until the last week of January 2001. All along I prayed that Al would still be with us.
When it finally came out I made arrangements to meet Al for lunch at Westwood. I’ll never forget that day. When I walked in Al was sitting with his back to me alone at "our" table. I walked up behind him and reached over his shoulders holding the book so he could see the cover. Al stared at it for several seconds, before turning around to see who was holding it. When he did I looked and saw tears in his eyes. I suddenly realized that after all the nice things Al had done for me I had finally done something nice for Al. That moment will be one that I will cherish for a lifetime.
One thing Al didn’t give me, and something I selfishly asked him for, was his copy of the Kefauver Committee testimony that had been put together by the government printing office and sent to Al by Senator Estes Kefauver. The book had Al’s name engraved on the cover. Al said I could have it some day. I have a special place set aside for it right next to my copy of the "Untouchables" that was once owned by Mayor Harold H. Burton, the man who hired Eliot Ness as Safety Director of Cleveland. This way I can keep the memories of two of Cleveland’s most successful crime fighters together.
September 10, 1931 – Salvatore Maranzano, the self-proclaimed "Capo de tutti Capi," the Boss of all Bosses. Less than five months after the death of Joe "the Boss" Masseria and the end of the bloody Castellammarese War, Maranzano is stabbed and shot to death in his Park Avenue office in Manhattan by killers posing as Internal Revenue officers. Maranzano was murdered on orders from Lucky Luciano who had just found out that Maranzano was plotting to murder him and several of his associates.
September 10, 1959 – Onofrio Sciortino, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the boss of the San Jose Family. He died of natural causes and was replaced by Joseph Cerrito.
September 11, 1937 – Roy "Happy" Marino, was one of "the best known underworld characters" in the Youngster area during the 1930s. A bookie and gambler, Marino’s bullet-riddled body was found lying in a ditch along Ohio Route 7. His death touched off an investigation into Ohio’s parole board. Marino had served 14 months of a one-to-twenty year sentence for robbing a bank.
September 13, 1931 – The bodies of Sam Monaco and Louis Russo were found in the Hackensack River, and James La Pore was murdered on a Bronx street. These, along with the murder of Jimmy Marino, were the only murders professor Humbert S. Nelli, working on a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Kentucky Research Foundation, could find in his search for the truth in the Sicilian Vespers murders that were to have taken the lives of 40 men. Nelli traveled to 14 cities and performed an extensive examination of Italian criminal activity. His work culminated in the book, "The Business of Crime: Italians and Syndicate Crime in the United States." See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_2-1-99.html
September 13, 1931 – Joseph Siragusa, according to Organized Crime: 25 Years After Valachi, was the boss of the Pittsburgh Family. He was gunned down in his home and replaced by John Bazzano.
September 13, 1936 – Joseph Rosen was a feisty Brownsville candy storeowner who had once been run out of the trucking business by Louis "Lepke" Buchalter. Rosen was one of the first victims of Lepke’s purge in the mid-1930s as Thomas E. Dewey’s investigations suddenly turned to the infamous labor racketeer. Rosen’s seemingly benign murder would result in a visit to the Sing Sing electric chair for Lepke, Mendy Weiss and Louis Capone. See my column http://www.americanmafia.com/Allan_May_11-1-99.html
September 14, 1984 – Salvatore "Salvie" Testa was the son of short-lived Philadelphia mob boss Philip "Chicken Man" Testa. Young Testa ended up on the wrong side of the murderous "Little Nicky" Scarfo, who had recently promoted him to capo. Testa was found alongside a country road outside of Philadelphia with two bullets in the back of his head.
September 15, 1970 – Frank Milano was recognized as the first leader of Cleveland’s infamous Mayfield Road Mob. Milano seized control of the Cleveland underworld after the murder of Joseph Porrello in 1930 and was the leader until he fled the country to avoid tax problems in early 1935. He was living in Los Angeles when he died of natural causes.
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