Lepke, 2 Pals Die In Chair At Sing Sing

"Another move to delay tonight's scheduled electrocution was made yesterday. Rabbi Jacob Katz, Hebrew chaplain at Sing Sing who had planned to spend the waning hours with Lepke today, asked Dewey to defer the execution at least one more day so it would not fall on the Jewish Sabbath, Saturday. Rabbi Katz explained is a very busy day for him since he has synagogue duties outside the prison...His appeal failed to move the Governor."

- Sunday News, March 5, 1944

Nothing could sway Governor Thomas E. Dewey from executing Louis (Lepke) Buchalter and it wasn't without reason. Lepke was a born killer. Of the Jewish mobsters, he may have been the most bloody and Lepke (Yiddish for Little Louis) had a reputation for enjoying his work.

For six years, Buchalter functioned as the head of Murder, Inc., the national crime syndicate's enforcement arm. As many as 100 corpses have been attributed to Lepke himself, while those under his control may have slain 1,000.

Buchalter didn't look the part with his suits and the general appearance of a mildly affluent man of business. But his wool suits couldn't warm his eyes, said to be like blocks of ice.

Before joining with the national Mafia, Buchalter worked as a labor racketeer in Manhattan's garment district and later branched out to control of other local unions including bakery delivery trucks. He charged bakers a penny-a-loaf "tax" for transporting bread to market in a timely fashion.

As a reward for his criminal cunning, Lepke was offered a position in the national crime syndicate being formed by Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano in the early 1930s. It was a position he enjoyed until 1940 when Luciano decided to turn Lepke over to the authorities because of enormous pressure being applied to the mob because of Lepke's crimes.

Lepke was convicted in the slaying of Joseph Rosen, a candy store clerk, and four years later he was electrocuted, even though if he'd turned informant he might have lived. "At 4:45 p.m. Lepke, scheduled to enter the Sing Sing death chamber six hours and 15 minutes later, spurned the tearful plea of his pretty wife, Betty, that he ask U.S. Attorney James B. M. McNally in New York to listen to his story of a widespread coalition between crime and politics.

"Coldly he listened to the desperate voices of his wife and their 22-year-old son, Harold, as they begged hime to call Sing Sing's Warden William E. Snyder and have him communicate with McNally.

"'He'll listen to you, Lou,' Mrs. Buchalter pleaded. 'God knows you can tell him enough to save you!'

"But the nation's No. 2 mobster, whose last court pleas had been turned down cold at noon by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, merely shook his head.

"'Look,' he said, 'Suppose I did talk to him. Suppose he asks for a reprieve. What's the best I could expect? I'll tell you: They'd give me another six or eight months - at the most a year. No. Betty,' he finished, 'if that's the case, I'd rather go tonight.'"

- Sunday News, March 5, 1944

And so he did.

Return to Laborers.org

All original work Copyright Laborers.org 1998. All rights reserved.