24 Sep The Other Capone Has a Prohibition Story, Too
The other Capone? Could the City of Chicago actually have handled two Capones during Prohibition? Fortunately, one was the good brother—the older brother lived in Homer, Nebraska where he made his living as a law enforcement official, after an unsuccessful attempt at joining the circus. That’s weird enough, but he wasn’t just a police officer. He was a fucking Prohibition agent! Perhaps the best Prohibition agent in all the land, given that he had a reliable source that could have, if asked, told him exactly how the gangsters were running the cities.
If you’re the less well known sibling in your own family, you may sympathize with James Vincenzo Capone. James was far more classically handsome than his brother, Al, and was often referred to as “Two Gun” because he was seldom seen without both side arms. If your brother was Al Capone, you’d be carrying two guns, too. As if in an attempt to counter-balance the Capone family karma, James went all in on enforcing the law and helping people. It’s believed he was able to track and refund to a bank the cash it lost in a bank robbery and once saved people from a flash flood. He was even honored with the responsibility of protecting President Calvin Coolidge while the president toured the South Dakota Black Hills.
James was assigned to the Native American reservations in Nebraska as a federal prohibition agent. James was also temporarily assigned to Sioux City, Iowa to investigate bootlegging. There he shot and killed a bootlegger and was acquitted of the manslaughter charge filed against him. After his exciting days on the reservations, he retired to the town of Homer, Nebraska where he was a duly-elected town marshal. His story might have ended quietly there, but for the allegations of theft that plagued him and ultimately ended his career.
If you find yourself in Homer, Nebraska researching the long-lost Capone brother, be sure to look for signs of Richard J. Hart, which is how “Two Gun” James was best known in the small town. It’s unclear why he changed his name, but I suppose if you were a federal Prohibition agent with the last name of Capone, you might have done the same thing.
It’s possible the Capone brothers were reunited in Chicago briefly in 1924, right in the middle of Al’s heyday, but in any event the story ends happily because we know James was able to reunite with Al in 1940, the war of Prohibition successfully behind them both. It’s almost comical to try to determine who was the more successful Capone. James certainly made far less money than his brother, but also was able to beat all allegations of criminal misconduct filed against him. Al, not so much! Before his death, James was also able to get a little financial help from his brother. Which, I think, makes this a true All-American story. Likely the most money the small town marshal ever made was dirty, rotten booze money.
On behalf of all oldest siblings everywhere, raise a glass to old James and his best efforts to walk the straight line in the 1920’s!
Written by Amy Williams