“Machine Gun” Jack McGurn was an Italian-American born in Licata, Sicily population 39,000 on July 2, 1902. His birth name was Vincenzo Gibaldi, however he had other variations such as Vincent Gebardi, and Vincenzo Demory.
At four years old he and his mother, Giuseppa Verderame, just 24 years old according to the ships manifest arrived at Ellis Island on November 24, 1906. They arrived, just the two of them, and awaited Jack’s brother and father who would arrive later in the year.
As a teenager McGurn grew up in the Chicago slums having to fight his way in a difficult neighborhood. He changed his name to “Battling” Jack McGurn and took up a career in boxing. The name McGurn, is Irish, and at the time Irish boxers got better bookings than Italians. He boxed from 1921 to 1923 and was referred to as the local 147 pounder from the West side.
McGurn didn’t run with the local street gangs, he focused on boxing, worked part-time and minded his own business. It wasn’t until his stepfather was assassinated by gang extortionists on January 28, 1923, that McGurn turned to a life of crime. Three men were responsible for his stepfather’s slaying, and McGurn took it upon himself to avenge the murder and killed all three. This act provided his introduction to Capone in late 1923 as a recruit for the Circus gang, a Capone subgroup run by Claude “Screwy Moore” Maddox.
McGurn’s specialty in the Circus gang was as a bodyguard and killer. Capone noticed these attributes and used McGurn as his personal bodyguard. McGurn can be seen everywhere Capone went, football and baseball games, and nightclubs. It’s been said that McGurn was not only a ruthless killer but also kept intelligence on Capone rivals having uncovered several murder plots before any attempts took place.
On September 5, 1929, gangsters and professional hit men Edward Westcott and Frank Cawley were found killed in a Chicago suburb. Both men had Buffalo Nickels pressed into their hands.
On December 12, 1930, Rudolph Marino and his brother Sam were found dead; murdered gangland style. Both men also had Buffalo Nickels pressed into their hand, and although there is no proof, the Buffalo nickel is said to be a calling card of a McGurn hit.
Although feared, McGurn was also the occasional target of assassination. In one such situation members of the deadly Northsiders gang almost cut McGurn in half by machine gun fire as he walked through the smoke shop in the McCormick hotel. The hitmen spotted McGurn from the street; both ran in one with the Thompson machine gun and the other a 45 caliber automatic revolver. The Thompson machine gun cut through McGurn’s right lung, chest, and arm as he dove for cover behind a partition wall. Fearing return fire the hitmen fled leaving McGurn to hobble to his feet and back to his hotel room, number 906 where he asked a bell boy to find a doctor.
After McGurn recovered he was once again placed at Al Capone side. Capone welcomed him back with a plan to rid themselves of the Northsider’s and Bugs Moran gang once and for all. Their meeting was the beginning plans of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre.
On February 14, 1929 five members and the North Side gang were lined up against
a garage wall and executed. Two of the shooters were dressed as uniformed police officers while the others wore suits, ties, overcoats and hats, according to the witnesses who saw the “police” leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage after the shooting. Bugs Moran escaped the slaughter arriving late to the meeting.
McGurn was questioned immediately after the slaying and provided an alibi stating he was in a hotel with his girlfriend Louise Rolfe who claimed they spent the entire day together. McGurn was charged in the case but never brought to trial due in large part to his alibi.
In April 1930 chairman of the Chicago crime commission published a nationwide list of public enemy’s that were corrupt in Chicago and its suburbs. Machine Gun Jack McGurn was fourth on the list. The notoriety McGurn received from the list cause the Outfit to turn their backs on him. The spotlight was too great. Having nowhere to turn McGurn, an avid golfer since youth, attempted a career as a professional. He had been a silent partner in a golf course on Western Avenue for many years and played well.
On August 25, 1933 the Western Open Golf Championships began at Olympia Fields Country Club a southern suburb of Olympia Fields Illinois. McGurn entered the competition using an alias, Vincent Gebhadi where he carded a 13 over par 83 on his first day. The next morning the name Gebhardi was published on a list of golfers set to tee off for day to when an alert police officer noticed the name as an alias for McGurn. The police chief was notified who subsequently sent two sergeants and five uniformed officers to arrest him. McGurn was arrested on the seventh green; however he politely requested to finish the round. The officers agreed and became part of his gallery escorting him until he finished a 16 over par 86, 14 strokes above making the cut. With his cover blown McGurn’s golf career was all but over. He played with his brother Anthony and was arrested on the course several times after that.
On February 15, 1936, McGurn entered a bowling alley at 805 Milwaukee Ave. with two so-called friends. Upon setting up his bowling game another man entered and yelled for everyone to stand still.
He said, “You move and you die.”
The two men accompanying McGurn, and the third man subsequently formed a semi circle around him, pulled out their guns, and fired. McGurn was hit several times; three in the head and once in the back before collapsing to the floor; payback for the massacre of the North Side gang seven years earlier.
Contrary to popular belief, there was no Valentine card found on his body, however left at the front desk a note states “you lost your dough and handsome houses, but things could be worse you know at least you haven’t lost your trousers”.
On March 2, 1936, less than a month after McGurn was gunned down his brother Anthony was shot by three men in a Chicago pool hall after stating he knew who killed Jack.