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William Hale Thompson

Republican Big Bill Thompson, Mayor of Chicago and Capone crony wearing his trademark hat.
Also known as Big Bill Thompson
(Mario Gomes Collection)

Born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 14,1868, he was brought to Chicago as an infant. His father William Hale Thompson Sr. was a wealthy real estate operator and a famous Chicagoan in his own right. On March 30,1866 Thompson Sr. resigned from the navy. He had been in the naval service for many years before going into the real estate business and politics. His son would later follow these same footsteps.
Bill Jr. had left Chicago and went west to follow his dream and become a cowboy.  Somewhat successful at it, he even managed a ranch in New Mexico.

On November 17,1891, his father passed away from pneumonia.
In 1892, he returned to Chicago and took over the management of his father's estate.

Big Bill was involved in all facets of Chicago life. He was a member and even captain of his football team called the Chicago Athletic association.
He also fueled his passion for yachts, which was probably handed down from his father's service in the Navy. Thompson Jr. once overturned his ship (The Corsair) on lake Geneva.

On July 24, 1893, William Thompson Jr. was with his mother at their Lac La Belle summer home in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. A drunken man by the name of Fred William Schumacher had gotten in a quarrel with a Mr. Block who was theThompson family footman. Schumacher had been upset that  Mr. Block had replaced him as the Thompson's footman. (Servant or Gopher). Thompson tried to intervene between the two men when Schumacher swung a blow at Thompson.
Thompson returned the favor in a soft manner and a very drunkardly Schumacher fell over and never got up. He was dead as a doornail. Doctor's ruled that Thompson's weak blow had nothing to do with the death and that Schumacher probably died from alcoholic apoplexy.


William Thompson Jr. first took a stab at politics in 1901, when he was elected as alderman of the old 2nd ward. He was county board member from 1902-1904.
In 1915, he was elected as mayor of Chicago.

He had a hard first term as most disliked his pacifist stance towards the first world war. He was nonetheless re-elected in 1919, collecting over 21,000 votes over his opponent.


Newspaper declaring Thompson's win over Sweitzer. The finally tally was well over early printed numbers
(Mario Gomes Collection)







Mrs. Thompson going out to vote for her husband. (1927)
(Mario Gomes Collection)





In 1920, Thompson the Mayor, tried to sue the Tribune for $500,000 for libel against mention of his war records in the newspaper. The case was led to a mistrial and never re-tried.
In 1921, the Tribune took it's turn to sue Thompson in trying to get him and his cronies to refund the city a staggering amount of almost 2 million dollars in real estate expert fees that was paid out to him and his back slapping buddies. A judge had found him guilty, but the verdict was later overturned by the Illinois Supreme court in 1930. They stated that there was no evidence that suggested that Thompson had tried to defraud the city.




Thompson bottle opener with bathing beauty given out to his supporters and the general public.
Back of bottle opener = WM Hale Thompson Republican Club 5th Precinct 33rd Ward
(Mario Gomes Collection)





 In 1923, George Brennan selected William E. Dever as having the best chance of defeating incumbent mayor Big Bill Thompson. Dever ran on a reform platform. Thompson didn't feel confident in winning, so he withdrew from the race leaving Republican Arthur Leuder up against the Democratic opponent. Leuder was easily defeated by Dever. The honest citizens of Chicago were tired of Thompson's slack administration who was totally lax aginst gangster rule. Once Dever was in office, all the gangsters moved out to the surrounding suburbs.

Dever ran for re-election in 1927 against "Big Bill" Thompson, who defeated him by 83,000 votes. The Thompson / gangster machine was back at work and now the gangsters made their headquarters in Chicago.
In 1936 Thompson made a failed attempt at the Governor position.
In 1939, Thompson gives it one more try for the Chicago mayorship, but loses out to Edward J. Kelly.


William Hale Thompson had many entries in the 1923 Chicago telephone directory.
(Mario Gomes Collection)

On March 19,1944, William "Big Bill the Builder" Thompson passes away after suffering a heart attack in an oxygen tent at his luxurious Blackstone hotel suite. He had been ill for seven weeks from a severe chest cold. He was 74 year old.

After Thompson's death, authorities found over 2 million dollars worth of assets in four security boxes. This was an exact total of total $1,840,000 in cash and bonds, not including stocks with various companies and whatever properties Thompson had acquired. It was known that Thompson was wealthy. His dad was rich and his mom was the daughter of Stephen Gale, one of the wealthiest old time Chicagoans.


Foes of Thompson questioned all this uncovered fortune as being from his cronyism and corrupt mayor days. They claimed that he was in the pockets of the gangster element. He lived in total luxury and still had plenty of cash and bonds after his death.
His friends defended him merely stating that he was tight fisted with money.

His estate was sued for nearly $4,000 in property back taxes by the government. The remainder of his estate went to his estranged wife, brothers and sister.  

Thompson had been estranged from his wife for many years, but she remained in contact and visited him when he was ill.  

A younger woman (secretary) name Miss Ethabelle Green, who may have been Thompson's lover, came out publicly after his death to claim one million in her name for past services rendered to Thompson.
The courts ruled to give her $250,000. After fees and taxes she was left with $100,000.


Many of Thompsons ornate and expensive belongings made the auction block after his estranged wife passed on October 9,1959.




Thompson Pinbacks
(Mario Gomes Collection)







Thompson button hole pin.
(Mario Gomes Collection with special thanks to Z3BigDaddy )



Chicago American April 5,1927, Thompson leading in polls.
(Mario Gomes collection)







Thompson for Mayor poster circa 1914-15.
These were printed up by the Max Lau Colortype Co. in Chicago for Thompson's bid for Chicago Mayor (1915-1923).
   (Mario Gomes Collection)s









Mayor Thompson did achieve some good things in Chicago, such as this bridge on Michigan Avenue in 1920.
        (Mario Gomes Collection)son

's

slack aistration whe was lax aginst gangster rule.
Once Dever was in office, all the

 gangsters moved to thetion in 1927 against "Big Bill" Thompson, who defeated him by 83,000 votes. The Thompson/ g
Another plaque (circa 1922) on a bridge over the river in dowtown Chicago.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Kennedy)










William E. Dever who was disliked by the gangsters in Chicago, lost his 1927 election against William Hale Thompson. These coins along with pinbacks was distributed to the masses in order to try and help get him elected

(Mario Gomes Collection)






William Dever for Mayor pinback from 1927.
(Mario Gomes Collection)





Letter from William Hale (Big Bill) Thompson. This letter was putting a person in charge of organizing an event in which a dedication was held for a airplane beacon to be dedicated in honor of Charles Lindberg the aviator.
(Mario Gomes Collection)






Closeup of William Hale Thompson signature
(Mario Gomes Collection)





A poster declaring the way things were run under Thompson's laisser faire administration.
(Mario Gomes Collection)






Anton J. Cermak for Mayor pinback from 1931 election. Cermak easily defeated Thompson.
(Mario Gomes Collection)






Dwight H. Green, One of the prosecutors against Al Capone. Riding high on the victory against Capone, he put in a bid for the  Chicago mayorship in 1939. His bid was unsuccessful.
Green later rose to prominence as Governor of Illinois.
(Mario Gomes Collection)








William Hale Thompson , Chicago's crooked mayor is buried under this ornate tombstone at Oakwoods cemetary.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Emblom)

First Posted December 2009