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Part 11: In Toledo, J. Edgar Hoover nabs No. 1 criminal on FBI's list

  • Part-11-In-Toledo-J-Edgar-Hoover-nabs-No-1-criminal-on-FBI-s-list-2

    Harry Campbell, handcuffed, is surrounded by J. Edgar Hoover s G-men after his capture on Monroe Street, just past 21st Street, in 1936. Campbell was No. 1 on the FBI s Most Wanted list.

  • Part-11-In-Toledo-J-Edgar-Hoover-nabs-No-1-criminal-on-FBI-s-list

    Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover is pic-tured in the 1936 documentary You Can t Get Away With It.

Part eleven of 14

With the Licavoli Gang in jail or in hiding, 1936 came with a relative calm or fog that had settled over Toledo. Gambling had returned by popular demand and the police just winked at what they considered a victimless crime.

If Toledo's residents didn't know where to place a bet, find a willing lady of easy virtue, or a drink to celebrate the crime free neighborhoods the February 16th issue of The Blade provided the locations.

"The lid is off in Toledo! The city is as wide open as any raw mining town that rip-snorted in the wake of the gold prospectors. ... Any cab driver will tell you where to find what you want. Gambling? Plenty, and conducted openly. A Girl? It's easy. Liquor .... Pay the cab driver a few extra pennies and he'll land you at the spot. ... Aronoff's Buckeye on Superior .... Wandtke's [Hayes' Jovial Club] on St. Clair .... Harris' Sport Center on Superior ... Levine's on Jefferson. The women work their trade openly on the streets. .... Or you may pay the cabman and he'll drop you at any number of places in the city. "

The long standing rift between Aronoff and Harris, Toledo's foremost gamblers, has almost been forgiven with the laxity in certain areas of law enforcement. Not everyone is getting along. Sheriff James O'Reilly has sent word to the gamblers that "the lid is on and that their places will not be tolerated."

At about the same time that O'Reilly was sending signals to the gamblers, the sheriff was receiving inquiries from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Harry Campbell.


Harry Campbell, handcuffed, is surrounded by J. Edgar Hoover s G-men after his capture on Monroe Street, just past 21st Street, in 1936. Campbell was No. 1 on the FBI s Most Wanted list.


Criticized by the Senate for the killing of Dillinger in 1934, J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary head of the FBI, was on the defensive when he contacted Lucas County about rumors that Campbell, a member of the notorious Alvin Karpis gang, was hiding out in Toledo.

With every inquiry came denial, and finally when the rumors became so rampant that Campbell was in Toledo, Hoover decided to conduct the raid and arrest him personally.

Cheering loudly, Hoover was encouraging the bureau's baseball team on to defeat the District of Columbia employees 9 to 7, when a trusted aide told him that another source revealed that Campbell was in Toledo. Leaving the details of the raid to his trusted G-Men, Hoover leisurely finished his fish dinner at one of Washington's better restaurants, before embarking on a chartered flight to Toledo aboard the City of Kansas City.

With no advance notice to Toledo's finest, Hoover arrived at Toledo's Transcontinental Airport at 2 a.m. accompanied by his heavily armed investigators to arrest the number one criminal on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Toledo, caught between Detroit and Cleveland, has always had a reputation as a vacation paradise where crooks, bank-robbers, and criminals of all kinds could find respite. It was even rumored that from time to time Pretty Boy Floyd would hide out in Toledo under the protection of the Licavolis. According to Hoover, Limpy Campbell was the one that came to Toledo in January of 1935 to arrange for the reunion of the Karpis Barker gang.

It was almost 4:30 in the morning when four cars coasted to a stop in front of the B&B Battery Service on Monroe Street just past 21st Street.

Awakened by the creaking stairs to the second floor apartment, Genevieve Fosnaught looked out the window to see the four cars shadowed by the dim street lights. Carrying what appeared to be sawed-off shotguns four men stayed with the cars while the other four started beating on the apartment door across the hall.

"My friend Gertrude Miller finally answered with 'What do you want,' " Mrs. Fosnaught said.

"We are Federal officers and we're coming in!"

"When I heard the door open the hallway became very still. In a few minutes they came out again, they were leading the man I knew as Mr. Miller. His feet were chained and he was handcuffed to two of the officers. Gertrude came out next crying," she said. "The detectives rushed them into one of the cars and drove away into the night."

It was almost 9 a.m. when Hoover announced to the assembled newsmen at Cleveland's airport that Harry Campbell had been arrested in a pre-dawn raid in Toledo. When asked if the Toledo or Lucas County police had assisted in the arrest, Hoover was unexpectedly silent.

Hoover did say that Toledo was one of the Barker-Karpis Gang's principal hideouts. Gathering every word, The Blade's reporters wrote the following: "The first time the gang came to Toledo they stayed at Point Place and at a downtown hotel. It was in Toledo that the fingerprint operations took place. The physician, Dr. Joe Moran, is said to be dead, having been slain by his gangster friends when the operations proved unsuccessful. Dr. Moran was said to be drowned in Lake Erie."

"I can take it," said Sheriff James O'Reilly after several of Toledo's newspapers including The Blade and News-Bee printed the revelations that O'Reilly and Campbell had been on friendly terms for the last five months.

As the story continued to unfold, Jack Jaworski, a reporter for the News-Bee, said, "... I had gone out to check the details of the Campbell arrest. I walked through the Goulet Grill and ran into Sheriff O'Reilly in the back yard. He [O'Reilly] was coming down from the apartment adjoining the rooms that Campbell had occupied. It was then that Sheriff O'Reilly said 'I've been drinking beer with him plenty of times but I never knew who he was. I had never seen a picture of the man.' "

Checking O'Reilly's story, one reporter found that a deputy sheriff who said that the circular had been on O'Reilly's bulletin board but was removed after Hoover arrested Campbell. When asked for another comment, Sheriff O'Reilly on his way to the annual Toledo Bar Association's Gridiron Dinner said "Had I the slightest suspicion of who he was he would have been behind bars long ago."

While Toledo's residents wondered just what was going on, The Blade's editorial of May 8, 1936 said it all. "Lucas County ought not to have that sheriff in office tomorrow. He should resign today."

Following The Blade's stinging indictment of Sheriff O'Reilly's ability, Hoover added "My statement with regard to cooperation with local police was broader than that. .... I said I would not cooperate with any police department that was corrupt, inefficient, or publicity mad. As to the conduct of the Toledo police department, the chief of police is in a much better position to know about that than I am. .... As to your sheriff, he has already admitted to associating with this man Campbell."

With the Lucas County primary elections only days away, Ohio law permitted the governor to remove the sheriff only if he failed to prevent a lynching. John Quinlivan, Chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said that only Lucas County residents can remove O'Reilly and that's if 1,000 voters sign a complaint and force a recall vote. As for Sheriff O'Reilly: "The next move is up to the Federal Government, not me. I will not resign."

The Blade's editorial of May 11th summarized the feelings of many of their readers. "No matter what the outcome of the primaries, the Democratic candidates who are finally nominated are going to be immeasurably handicapped, if not completely ruined, by the presence of O'Reilly on the ticket. ... The old saying, however, that men are known by the company that they keep is altogether applicable ...."

With Sheriff O'Reilly refusing to resign, the residents of Lucas County finished his political career by electing Republican Charles "Spike" Hennessy sheriff in the Fall.

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