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Mob murder and capital corruption: The cold case of a state senator's 1945 assassination

Jan 10, 2018

 

It's Wednesday, so it's time to talk Michigan History. This week, we observe the anniversary of the 1945 assassination of State Senator Warren G. Hooper.

 

Mark Harvey, state archivist, along with Scott Burnstein, Detroit mafia historian and author, and Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio's Capitol bureau chief, joined Stateside to help tell the story.

 

Listen above for the full conversation, or catch highlights below.

 

On corruption in the capital

 

“This was during a period of time that Michigan and the country, really, still carried kind of some post-prohibition morality, that corruption was sort of dealt with with kind of a wink, and there was a lot of corruption in the Michigan Legislature,” Pluta said.

 

On the mafia scene at the time

 

"It was flourishing,” Burnstein said. “It was really coming into its own about 12 years after prohibition ended, and was reinventing itself. The Italian Mafia and the Jewish Mafia, the Purple Gang, had joined forces, had melded together, and the bootlegging empire that they had both built in the 1920s and early-1930s had transitioned into an empire based on gambling, loan sharking, extortion, as well as labor racketeering, political corruption, and narcotics."

 

On the infamous Detroit gang of the era

 

"The Purple Gang was by far the most iconic, most violent, and most successful prohibition-era bootlegging syndicate from Detroit. Their infamy stretched way beyond the boundaries of the state of Michigan,” Burnstein said.

 

On the case's lack of resolution

 

"There were some people convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, but what makes the Warren Hooper murder officially unsolved is that we never found out who actually pulled the trigger and built a trail back to who ordered it,” Pluta said.

 

This segment is produced in partnership with the Michigan History Center.

 

 

The hat worn by State Senator Warren Hooper at the time of his assassination.
Credit Michigan History Museum Collections

 

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