Events that shaped us 

Associated Environmental Management Services Inc
PO Box 586
1701 13 St
Viola, IL 61486

Edward Jones
1632 5th Avenue
Moline, IL 61265

Downtown Davenport Association
102 S. Harrison St.
Davenport, IA 52801

Donald J. McNeil, D.D.S.
1030 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265

Valley Dental Center
Dr. Margarida R. Laub
Route 6, Coal Valley, IL

Sylvan Learning Center
1035 Lincoln Road
Bettendorf, IA

Marycrest International University
1607 W 12 St
Davenport, IA 52804

St. Ambrose University
518 W Locust
Davenport, IA 52804

Palmer College of Chiropractic
1000 Brady St
Davenport, IA 52803

Augustana College
639 38 St
Rock Island, IL 61201

H & R Block
1715 W Locust St
Davenport, IA 52804

Looney had a lock on Rock Island

John Looney
It is said that Al Capone played cards in East Moline, but stayed away from Rock Island. Why would the notorious gangster avoid this town? The answer is John Looney, a man with a reputation so big and so bad that even the infamous Capone didn't cross his path.

Mr. Looney printed ``The Rock Island News,'' a paper that ran scandalous stories about area residents, with headlines including, ``Prominent Banker Consort of Prostitutes,'' and ``Moline Jeweler Dope Fiend.''

People paid to keep their names out of his paper. The more important a person's reputation the higher the fee.

The Argus began exposing Mr. Looney early, which explained headlines in his paper like ``R.I. Editor is Insane and Syphilitic,'' and another accusing then publisher Minnie Potter of having an affair with her gardener.

In 1912, Mr. Looney was beaten severely by then Rock Island Mayor Harry Shriver after printing a story linking the mayor to a prostitute. The next night, a gang meeting in Market Square grew to a riot of over 2,000 Looney supporters.

They wound up at the police station, where the police killed two and wounded eight. Governor Charles Deneen declared martial law in Rock Island and sent 600 National Guard troops to take over. Mr. Looney retreated to New Mexico to recover from his beating.

By 1921 he had returned, and become even more powerful, thanks to the opportunites that prohibition offered. Mr. Looney eventually controlled about 150 gambling houses, brothels, and saloons. About 170 illegal merchants paid protection fees to him.

His wealth and influence continued to grow, due in part to newfound friendships with Mayor Shriver and police chief Thomas Cox. Although he was threatened on a regular basis, and shot at on occasion, everything went all right for Mr. Looney until 1922.

On Oct. 6, 1922, Mr. Looney and his son, Connor, were outside the Sherman Hotel, located where the Plaza One is now, when four men opened fire on them. Mr. Looney ran to the hotel while his son shot back and was fatally wounded. The next day ``The Rock Island News'' carried the headline ``R.I. Argus Thugs Kill John Looney Jr.''

Later that year, saloon owner Bill Gabel was unhappy with an increase in his protection fee, and told his story to federal agents. He also made the mistake of telling a police officer with connections to Mr. Looney. Soon after, Mr. Gabel was shot to death.

Since the police did little investigation into the murder, the Argus took action by beginning its editorial page for months asking ``Who Killed Bill Gabel?''

By Oct. 26, 1922, all his brothels and saloons were closed, his stills destroyed, and Mr. Looney had returned to New Mexico. In November, 1923, he was brought back to Rock Island to stand trial for the murder of Mr. Gabel. In 1925 he was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was released in poor health at the age of 68 in 1934.

Copyright 1999, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.