Eliot Ness, who died in 1957 at age 55, is once again in the news.
In January, Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois Republican, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, introduced a bipartisan resolution to honor the late Prohibition agent by naming the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) headquarters in Washington D.C., the Eliot Ness ATF Building.
“Chicago gangster Al Capone believed that every man had his price. But for Eliot Ness and his legendary law enforcement team 'The Untouchables,' no amount of money could buy their loyalty or sway their dedication to the Chicago’s safety. That steadfast commitment to public service is why it is so fitting that we remember Eliot Ness with this honor,” Mr. Durbin said.
... Like most of my generation, I grew up watching actor Robert Stack's portrayal of Eliot Ness on TV in "The Untouchable" during its run from 1959 to 1963. The crime drama is now in syndication and is viewed by a new generation, as well as those who watched it as kids.
Although I’m still fond of the show, I now know that it is historically inaccurate. The 1987 film starring Kevin Costner as Ness is also historically inaccurate, although I like Robert De Niro as Al Capone and Sean Connery as a tough Irish cop.
...While the IRS tallied Capone's lack of tax payment, Ness' small squad hit Capone where it hurt — his breweries. As Mr. Perry notes, Ness said the Capone mob’s breweries were a prime target since they had the most capital invested in them and they produced the greatest income. Ness smashed up breweries and he also gathered evidence against the Capone mob through informants and wire taps.
... “The thing that gets overlooked, even after all these years, is that Ness didn’t need Oscar Fraley's help to be a hero. Fans of the Robert Stack TV series and the Kevin Costner movie and the various novels and comic books can all legitimately lay claim to Ness being one of the most influential and successful lawmen of the twentieth century,” Mr. Perry writes.
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