Feature Articles

March 2001

Just Plain Crazy

By John William Tuohy

     In 1933, Frank Nitti's leading labor terrorist, Three Fingers Jack White, recruited Fur Sammons to help fight the Touhy gang in the labor wars of 1933.

     It was an excellent choice. Sammons was a certified psychopath and a killer and he took enormous pride in both of those facts. He specialized in labor terror although, like White, Sammons's record was long and varied.

     In 1900 Sammons and four others kidnapped an eleven-year-old schoolgirl off the street, raped her and then beat her so savagely she almost died. The girl weighed 85 pounds. They broke her nose, punched out one of her eyes, and stabbed her in her vaginal area with a pencil.

     Sammons, who showed no remorse over the attack, smirking at her parents in court, was given five years for his part in the crime and paroled in 1903. Two months later he was arrested for the murder of Patrick Barret, a saloon keeper. Sammons was convicted and sentenced to be hanged in 1904. He sat on death row until 1917, in solitary confinement where it was said he was driven insane by the stay there. He escaped in 1917 and committed a series of robberies until he was captured.

     Like Three Fingers Jack White, Sammons was paroled in 1923 by Governor Len Small after paying a small fortune in bribe money to Porky Dillon, now a Touhy gunman who was then working as one of Small's bagmen and quickly returned to the mobs working for the O'Donnell brothers.

     White and Sammons decided to take back the upper hand for the mob by striking out against Touhy's strongest supporter, Paddy Barrel, International Vice President of the Teamsters.

     Barrel's murder was a major blow to the Touhy organization. Paddy Barrel was Touhy's man in the teamsters and the key to all that teamster money hidden away in various pension funds.

     On February 2, 1933, Tommy Touhy and Red Ryan took two carloads of gunners and combed the streets of extreme north western Chicago when reports came in that Fur Sammons was out gunning for them in an armor-plated car with bulletproof windows. Reports were that Sammons was wearing a woman's fur hat and coat over his blue suit.

     The Touhys and Sammons spent several hours stalking each other until Tommy had enough of the cat and mouse game and ordered his caravan to pull over at the intersection of Harlem and North Avenue where Chicago, Oak Park, River Forrest and Elmwood Park meet.

     They waited and several minutes later Sammons's car slowly came towards them north on Harlem. The Touhys knew the car was armor-plated and as soon as it pulled up alongside their car, they leaned out the windows with machineguns and opened fire on Sammons's tires and radiator. Tommy Touhy climbed out of his car and stood on the dashboard of his car and fired into Sammons's windows. Sammons leaned out his window driving with one hand and released a clip into Tommy's legs. Shot badly, Tommy fell onto the street and runningboard, as Red Ryan who was parked behind Tommy ran up and pulled him back into the car and out of the line of fire.

     Sammons, traveling at not more than five miles an hour, in part because his tires had been shot out from under him, pulled east into Oak Park on Le Moyne parkway with the Touhys in hot pursuit except that at that point a squad car from River Forrest pulled on to the scene and demanded that they pull over; the Touhys answered by firing a clip off at the cops who returned fire but by then the Touhy cars had disappeared into Elmwood Park.

     A few miles down the road Margaret Hanley, the wife of William Hanley, the business agent for the Commission Wagon Drivers union, and her sister and small son were forced off the road by Sammons who leapt from his armored car, machinegun in hand and forced the woman from the car and sped away towards the Loop.

     Sammons was arrested by the FBI in Kansas City in July of 1933, for his part in a Baltimore Maryland payroll robbery. At the time of his arrest he was carrying a .45, a large quantity of hot jewelry and $8,500 in marked bills taken during the payroll robbery. He was held on $20,000 bail, at that point, one of the highest bails ever posted in Kansas.

     Sammons couldn't make the bail and during his stay in jail tried to bribe one of his jailors, and was arrested on the charge. On November 29, 1933, Fur Sammons was given life as a habitual criminal. He died in prison.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

Past Issues
div. of PLR International
P.O. Box 19146
Cleveland, OH 44119-0146
216 374-0000

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 PLR International