Posts Tagged 'Journalism'

The Murder of Jake Lingle (6-9-1930)

“Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

Even in the internet age, the old maxim is still heard around newsrooms.  That’s why the murder of Tribune reporter Jake Lingle created such a sensation.  Why would gangsters do something so provocative?

The Scene of the Crime

The Scene of the Crime

It sure looked like a mob hit.  Just before 1:30 in the afternoon Lingle was walking through the busy tunnel under Michigan Avenue at Randolph.  A man came up behind him and fired a single shot into the back of the reporter’s head, then fled through the crowd.

Chicago’s newspapers were outraged.  One of their own people had been gunned down by underworld scum!  The Tribune and its rivals joined in battle against the common enemy.  The reward for the arrest and conviction of the killer reached $55,000—about $700,000 in 2020 money.

Thousands attended Lingle’s funeral at Our Lady of Sorrows church.  Then, bit by bit, certain facts began to come out.

Lingle's Funeral

Lingle’s Funeral

Lingle had been making $65 a week at the Trib.  Yet he lived like royalty.  Besides his apartment, he kept a suite at the Stevens Hotel, had a summer cottage near the Indiana Dunes, took vacations in Cuba, and was driven around by a chauffeur.  He was also a heavyweight gambler—he was on his way to the Washington Park race track when he was killed.

Lingle knew Al Capone, Bugs Moran, and all the other gangland bigshots.  As a crime reporter, that was part of his job.  He was also close friends with the chief of police.  So how did Jake Lingle get enough cash to finance his expensive lifestyle?

Connect the dots.  Did Lingle arrange payoffs from the underworld to politicians and crooked cops?  Did he charge a fee for this service?  Was his killing connected with this racket?

Lingle in the Office

Lingle in the Office

Within a few months, a small-time hood named Leo Brothers was arrested as the killer.  He claimed he was innocent, but was convicted on the testimony of seven witnesses who had seen him running from the murder scene.  Brothers drew the minimum sentence—14 years.

Historians still argue over whether Brothers was really the trigger man.  And there’s still debate over who gave the order, and why.

Ninety years later, the murder of Jake Lingle remains a mystery.