Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Scarface and 'Two Gun': Infamous bootlegger and his lawman brother

Richard J. Hart had busted bootleggers during Prohibition, gotten into gunfights with killers, and saddled up his prized horse, Buckskin Betty, and tracked thieves and fraudsters across the vast prairies of the half-tamed Great Plains, reported the Omaha World Herald.
He had forged friendships with the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes. He had made powerful enemies. He had met and protected the president of the United States.
He had shot well, punched first, posed for countless newsmen, strummed the mandolin and said precious little. He refused to talk about where he had come from, how he appeared one day in tiny Homer, Nebraska, why his own wife had never met a single relative of his.
He dressed like he was trying to prove something: the white hat, a bow tie, riding britches, riding boots and, hung off his belt, a pair of shined-up, pearl-handled pistols.
He called himself Richard Hart, or sometimes RJ, or sometimes Richard James, but it didn’t much matter. For decades, Nebraskans knew him by his nickname: Two Gun.
It was Two Gun Hart who walked into a Chicago courtroom, an aging lawman now, jowly and paunchy, looking out of place and nervous as the cameras flashed and an overflow crowd leaned in to hear his words. He told the judge he couldn’t much see anymore — cataracts and an old police injury. And then he made a single, simple request: Can I please wear my hat on the stand?
The question made perfect sense, because Richard “Two Gun” Hart, the man raising his right hand and pledging to tell the whole truth, had spent a lifetime carefully crafting his image, or concealing it, depending on which way you wanted to eyeball it.
He was a decorated war veteran, a fearless Prohibition agent, a skilled investigator and Homer’s longtime town marshal — and yet he was also something else, something he had successfully hidden since the day he disappeared from Brooklyn at age 15.
If he seemed too good to be true, that’s because he was. But, somehow, his whole truth seemed even more fictional than his fiction.
A lawyer asked: What is your name?
Richard J. Hart, he answered.
No, no. What name were you born with?
He spelled his first name for the jury: V-I-N-C-E-N-Z-O.
And then he uttered his family name in public for the first time in nearly a half-century.
The decorated Nebraska law man was the older brother of famed Chicago bootlegger Al Capone.
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