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Discussion Questions - Organized Crime

Articles

Organized Crime

Many influential scholars that studied or lived in East St. Louis such as Bill Nunes say that organized crime and criminals like Buster Wortman ironically kept East St. Louis safe. People like Wortman who ran saloons, gambling joints, and brothels profited off the people coming to East St. Louis to have a good time. He couldn't afford to have criminals running around town scaring and hurting people because that would have given the city a bad reputation and people would be too afraid to come there, causing him to lose business. However, it did attract a lot of trouble and gang wars and shoot outs were not uncommon. Plus the influence organized crime leaders must have had in East St. Louis over policemen and politicians could only lead to further corruption. Do you think that organized crime was good for East St. Louis because it supposedly kept the residents safe? Or do you think it only intensifies the original problems of vice and corruption in the city? (CB)

During the Prohibition era, the Shelton gang undisputedly ran East St. Louis's illegal liquor market. Though the Sheltons held prominence in many areas of Southern Illinois, East St. Louis was their haven of sorts, a place where men in saloons raised their beer mugs to toast the brothers. What was it about East St. Louis that it was so easily swayed by the Shelton Gang, and not other areas of Southern Illinois such as Williamson County? How did feelings toward the Ku Klux Klan in East St. Louis engender a certain respect for the Sheltons? How did feeling toward the Ku Klux Klan influence the people of Williamson County toward the Sheltons? How did the dismissal of S. Glenn Young from the Klan affect the Shelton Gang and other gangsters, such as Charlie Birger? (AP)
Other than bootlegging, what were some other criminal activities the Shelton Gang participated in both during and after prohibition? What is significant, in regards to the Sheltons, about labor unions after prohibition ended? Why were the Sheltons driven to labor unions after the collapse of prohibition? (RV)