Ness, Eliot

Ness, Eliot,

1903–57, American law enforcement officer, b. Chicago, grad. Univ. of Chicago (1925), famous as the leader of the "Untouchables," the Justice Dept. squad who fought the gangster Al CaponeCapone, Al
(Alfonso or Alphonse Capone) , 1899–1947, American gangster, b. Naples, Italy. Brought up in New York City, he became connected with organized crime and was the subject of murder investigations.
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 during prohibitionprohibition,
legal prevention of the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, the extreme of the regulatory liquor laws. The modern movement for prohibition had its main growth in the United States and developed largely as a result of the agitation of
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. Ness joined the U.S. Treasury Dept. in 1927, and two years later became a special agent in the Justice Dept. Nicknamed the "Untouchables" for their incorruptability, he and his nine-man team disrupted Capone's illegal breweries and speakeasies, and their efforts helped lead to the successful prosecution of Capone for federal tax evasion. Ness later wrote of his exploits in The Untouchables (1957, with O. Fraley), which became the basis of a popular television series and several films. He also served (1933–35) as head of the Justice Dept.'s alcohol tax unit, and later was director (1935–41) of public safety for Cleveland, Ohio, and headed (1941–45) the Federal Security Agency's Division of Social Protection.


See biographies by P. W. Heimel (1997) and D. Perry (2014); study by K. Tucker (2000).

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Ness, Eliot

G-man successfully subdues Prohibition gangsters. [TV: “The Untouchables” in Terrace, II, 402–403]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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