Monday, May. 27, 1946

The Emperor Jones


Greying, affable Ed Jones is the biggest boss and at the same time the golden goose of Chicago's $25 million-a-year policy syndicate. As such, his well-being is the concern of thousands. His syndicate employs some 5,000 Negroes. Political bosses and ward heelers depend on him to deliver the vote; court officials and police get a healthy cut of the weekly $7,500 in syndicate protection money; the 337,000 citizens of Chicago's teeming Negro belt consider him a hero and a symbol. All of them insist that he remain free and happy.

But last week Big Ed was trammeled and sad. In fact, he was kidnaped. While Chicago's press whooped with an enthusiasm mislaid since the Capone era, brother George Jones flew in from Mexico to round up a reported $250,000 in ransom money. Automatically, city officials began another cleanup of unprotected policy peddlers. From the North Shore to Bronzeville, the Negro heartland, the kidnapping was poolroom talk.

For Ed Jones was a big piece of Chicago. Besides a ranch in Mexico, a villa on the Riviera and an Illinois estate, he owned two mansions, a dairy, a variety store and three hotels in Chicago.

He was an intimate of the great. Joe Louis had spoken at the opening of his Bronzeville store and Bill ("Bojangles") Robinson had declared to the folks jamming the street: "You have God, Father Divine. . . . Now you have the Jones Brothers. ..."

At home, Ed shaved in a $7,500 gold leaf bathroom, ate in a white-and-silver dining room at a glass-topped table, relaxed in a game room with a miniature pool table flanked by a rolling bar. Eighteen years ago Ed had been a Pullman-car porter. Now he had the golden touch. Would it work on the kidnapers?

At week's end, Chicago had the answer. A rumpled, sore-eyed, unshaven Negro was turned loose on a Chicago side street. (The Daily News set the ransom at $100,000.) Ed couldn't seem to remember the kidnapping, his connection with the policy racket, or anything else. But Bronzeville's memory was excellent. From the pool and dance and spiritualist halls to Dr. Pryor's Holy Floor Wash Factory and King Solomon's Temple of Religious Science, there was a holiday. Big Ed was back.,9171,776831,00.html

The True Story of Chicago's Policy Kings
and Numbers Racketeers
An Informal History by Nathan Thompson