George Clarence "Bugs" Moran (/məˈrɑːn/; born Adelard Leo Cunin; August 21, 1893 – February 25, 1957) was an American Chicago Prohibition-era gangster. He was incarcerated three times before his 21st birthday. Seven members of his gang were gunned down in a warehouse in the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre of February 14, 1929, supposedly on the orders of his rival Al Capone.
Early life and career
Moran was born Adelard Cunin to French immigrant Jules Adelard Cunin and Marie Diana Gobeil, Canadian descendent, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He attended Cretin High School, a private Catholic school in Saint Paul, but he also joined a local juvenile gang and left school at age 18. He was later caught robbing a store and was sent to the state juvenile correctional facility, and was put in jail three times before he turned 21. He then fled to Chicago where he was caught trying to rob a warehouse, taking part in a horse-stealing ring, taking part in robbery involving the death of a police officer, and robbing a freight car, for which he received a variety of prison and jail sentences.
Prohibition was established in 1920 with the enactment of the 18th Amendment, which banned the distribution of alcoholic beverages, resulting in bootlegging.
Among the involved gangs were Dean O'Banion and his mostly Irish group, including Bugs Moran, who became known as the North Side Gang and Al Capone as the leader of the Italian mob on the South Side. These two rivals fought violently, resulting in what is known as "The Bootleg Battle of the Marne".
Battling Al Capone
The bootlegging operation of Hymie Weiss and Bugs Moran continued to pose a significant challenge to Capone's South Side Gang. Moran and Capone then led a turf war with each other that cost them both. Moran's hatred of Capone was apparent even to the public. Moran was disgusted that Capone engaged in prostitution. He would not increase profits himself by engaging in prostitution rings because of his Catholic religion. Johnny Torrio's gang killed Dean O'Banion, and in an attempt to avenge him Bugs Moran and Earl "Hymie" Weiss made an attempt on Torrio's life. Later they went on to make a failed attempt on Al Capone's life at his headquarters, the Hawthorne Inn in Cicero, Illinois. More than one thousand shots were fired at the inn and at a nearby restaurant in their attempts to kill Capone. In retaliation, Weiss's life was taken by Al Capone's gang, and Bugs Moran became head man of the North Side Gang. Responding to Weiss's death, Moran tried to kill a member of Capone's gang, resulting in an attack, allegedly from Capone, known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre
On February 14, 1929, Capone probably tried to strike a decisive blow against Moran with the notorious Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. The day before, a tempting phone call to Moran told him that a truckload of whiskey had just arrived from Detroit, Michigan, and that he could have it at a bargain price. He ordered the whiskey to be delivered at 10:30 a.m. the next morning at the garage of the S.M.C. Cartage Company on North Clark Street, where he kept his bootlegging trucks. Two gunmen dressed as Chicago police officers and two others in plain clothes lined up seven of Moran's people against the wall in the warehouse and gunned them down. However, Bugs Moran, the main target of the "hit", narrowly eluded death, as he had decided to sleep in that day. Had they known he was not there, they might have put off the attack until a different day. Another North Sider, Al Weinshank, was misidentified as Moran by one of Capone's lookouts who signaled for the attack to begin.
Responders were late to the scene due to the lack of reporting by neighbors, who thought that whatever had occurred had been taken care of when they saw the two "police officers" exit the area from which the gunshots were heard. Six of the men were killed and another was near death when police arrived on the scene. The seventh man, Frank Gusenberg, was taken to a hospital, where he refused to identify his killers following the gangster's code of silence, and later died. When Moran saw the carnage, he broke the gangster code, accusing Capone of the murders. No one was convicted of the crime, and Capone denied all involvement in the massacre. Capone was called to court, however, but claimed to be sick both times. The tactic worked, and Capone never was convicted.
Moran managed to keep control of his territory and what remained of his gang through the early 1930s, but the North Side gang never fully recovered its power or former place in Chicago's underworld as the chief rival to Capone's Italian mob. Moran eventually left the area, quitting the gang entirely—though not the criminal lifestyle, as he reverted to his earlier gangster ways of petty crime such as mail fraud and robbery.
On April 30, 1939, Moran was convicted of conspiracy to cash $62,000 worth of American Express checks. He was freed on appeal when he posted a bond; he fled but was captured and not released until December 21, 1944. He was almost penniless by the 1940s, only 17 years after being one of the richest gangsters in Chicago. On July 6, 1946, he was arrested for his involvement in the robbery of a Dayton, Ohio tavern on June 28, 1945, and he received a sentence of 20 years after being found guilty. He was paroled in 1956 but was immediately arrested for his role in the 1945 robbery of a bank in Ansonia, Ohio. He was found guilty in 1957 and sentenced to 10 more years in prison.
Death in prison
Moran died of lung cancer a few months into his 10-year sentence at Leavenworth Prison in Kansas on February 25, 1957, at the age of 63.
He married Evelyn Herrell, who left him for his criminal life. In 1922 he married Lucille Logan Bilezikdijan, and he had a son, John George Moran (1920 – 1959).
In popular culture
|1958||Playhouse 90 Seven Against the Wall||USA||Portrayed by Dennis Patrick|||
|1959||Al Capone||USA||Portrayed by Murvyn Vye|||
|1959||The Untouchables — The George "Bugs" Moran Story, Arsenal, The Eddie O'Gara Story, and Doublecross||USA||Portrayed by Lloyd Nolan, Robert J. Wilke, and Harry Morgan|||
|1967||The St. Valentine's Day Massacre||USA||Portrayed by Ralph Meeker|||
|1975||Capone||USA||Portrayed by Robert Phillips|||
|1987||The Verne Miller Story||USA||Portrayed by Sean Moran|||
|1993||The Untouchables — Pilot (Parts 1 and 2), Chinatown||USA||Portrayed by Jack Thibeau|||
|2000||Early Edition — Everybody Goes to Rick's||USA||Portrayed by Kevin Fry|||
|2017||Gangster Land||USA||Portrayed by Peter Facinelli|||
- Bugs Moran at Encyclopædia Britannica
- George "Bugs" Moran, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left. 1957. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, whereabouts unknown. Accessed 22 Mar. 2015. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/95511458/
- George "Bugs" Moran, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. 1930. Library of Congress, whereabouts unknown. Accessed 22 Mar. 2015. https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93511625/
- "FEB 14 1929: The St Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago". History Today 59, no. 2 (February 2009): 10. Corporate ResourceNet, Accessed March 23, 2015. EBSCOhost.
Salem Press. American Villains. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press, 2008. 386-389. Accessed March 22, 2015. EBSCOhost.