The Farmer’s Field: Easy Eddie and His Son Butch
Al Capone, otherwise known as Scarface, was one of the world’s most notorious criminals. During his career, he built an empire in Chicago which involved murder, gambling, prostitution, robbery, protection rackets, bootlegging, bribery and narcotics trafficking.
He was so elusive, he seemed completely untouchable by law enforcement. Because of his far reach, many of Chicago’s businesses became involved with Capone, whose entities acted as “business insurers” for new entrepreneurs.
As he began his career as an ambitious businessman and new lawyer, a young man known as Easy Eddie became very involved with Capone, and they built and pursued many business ventures together.
Shortly before moving to Chicago, Easy Eddie met Owen Patrick Smith, the commissioner of the International Greyhound Racing Association. Smith had hired him to acquire a patent license for his design of a mechanical rabbit used to entice dogs to run around a racetrack.
When Smith passed away, his widow sold the patent rights to Eddie, and his newfound venture became enormously profitable. As he became involved with Capone, the two eventually were operating racetracks in Miami, Chicago and Boston, and their profits soared.
Easy Eddie, who was both industrious and ambitious, was ultimately a family man. He cared deeply for his three children, Patricia, Marilyn and Edward.
However, his desire for success and financial gain began to change who he truly was. His illegal dealings with Capone had become a daily necessity. It was the price of doing business, and it began to overshadow what he valued the most.
After Eddie’s son Edward, also known as Butch, graduated from Western Military Academy, he began the process of applying to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. Eddie became very concerned his ties to Capone would ultimately prevent the necessary backing of a U.S. Congressman and, thus, prevent his son from attending the academy.
Knowing his position and the danger of exposing Capone’s dealings to law enforcement, Easy Eddie made a choice. He chose to turn away from his criminal dealings.
Through his sources, he was able to contact the Internal Revenue Service, where he turned over Capone’s financial records. At last, law enforcement had what they needed to find and convict Capone of tax evasion.
Shortly after Capone’s release, Easy Eddie was gunned down in his own vehicle. It was apparent hitmen were used in retaliation for turning in Capone, although it was never proven, and no one was ever arrested.
Easy Eddie’s actions allowed his son to enter and graduate from the Naval Academy, but ultimately cost him his own life.
Butch became a U.S. Naval pilot and served in World War II. In 1942, assigned to the USS Lexington, Butch’s crew was on course to strike the Japanese. Their ship was discovered, and within a short time, Japanese bombers were upon them.
As its planes and the Lexington fought to protect itself, a second wave of bombers was on its way. Upon discovering no other pilots were within range to help attack the second wave of bombers, Butch and his wingman chose to fly directly into the group of bombers in hopes of saving the Lexington.
Normally a death wish, his incredible flying ability and marksmanship single-handedly destroyed five of the bombers until he finally ran out of ammunition. As other pilots arrived, Butch was able to land his plane on the Lexington with minimal damage.
His bravery was credited with saving the USS Lexington, and he became the first Naval recipient of the Medal of Honor in World War II. Later, in 1949, Chicago’s Airport was named O’Hare International Airport, in honor of this incredible man and hero – Edward “Butch” O’Hare, the son of Easy Eddie.
I find this story to be remarkable and one that demonstrates what happens when character and doing the right thing is valued more than success and financial gain.
I have no doubt Easy Eddie clearly understood his eventual fate when he decided to turn in Capone. But, in the face of it all, he still made the conscious choice to sacrifice himself for the future of his family. He made the choice to change and to make things right.
This single action changed the fate of a family immersed in crime to one of virtuousness, and one that would have a lasting, positive impact for generations.
Life brings its ups and downs, and it brings both good and bad people into and out of our lives at different times.
Sometimes, those people and those things we get caught up with can cause our lives to spin out of control. It can put us on a course we never intended, and we can easily lose sight of things that are most important.
The good news, however, is we can always choose to change. We can choose to make it better and to make things right. No matter how hard it may be and no matter what it may take, we are in control of this choice.
And, it’s a choice which not only affects us, but it affects generations far in to the future. It’s a lesson we all need to remember, to embrace and to live by.