When $Millionaires$
Funded Gangs

Untitled, undated article reprinted by the courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.

The article was probably written in the early 1970s.


WHEN three millionaires decided to channel money into street gangs living in Chicgo ghettoes they found it couldn't be done quietly.

For one thing, money make the kind of noise that always seems to attract politicians for good or ill. For anther, sums spent to cure a civic ailment like the gangs are much like the radioactive iodine used to trace a cancer in a dying patient. The experts all follow it very closely.

And so, predictably, the millionaires came under the politicians fire. The city council last week hauled them or their spokesmen in for a hearing and demanded to know by whast right they provided money to an element of the populace everybody else had given up on. Ald. Claude Holman, co-chairman of the City Council subcommittee that conducted the hearing, went so far as to propose a law to prevent the benefactions. One, W. Clement Stone, was a target of the council's Democratic majority because he is a benefactor of the Republican Party.

W. Clement Stone on the streets of Lawndale with Vice Lords.

The millionaires, beside Stone, are Charles E. Merrill Jr. and C.F. Kettering. They exhibited three different styles in their charity. Here are their stories:

FOR CHICAGO insurance executive Clement Stone, money to the Conservative Vice Lords is not a dole but a phase of a reclamation project which began when several of the Lords' hierarchy landed in Illinois prisons and came in contact with Stone's self-help programs offered there.

"We felt there was great energy in these young men," said Stone, "and that all we needed to do was channel it and show them we were willing to take a chance on them."

Stone's philanthropic are, the W. Clement Stone Foundation, cut the chance taking to a minimum. Any money the Vice Lords received was to be a loan for their West Side businesses and the proceeds were to be used to pay bills already incurred as well as offering a well managed stake for the future.

"I'm not interested in running any bail bond fund," said Stone. "I think the Vice Lords have become a force for good on the West Side. To the extent our loan can help them develop projects like the African Lion clothing store, Art and soul neighborhood crafts center, Teen Town and others, we are doing a service. Nothing is being given away because that doesn't really help."

THE VICE LORDS became the Conservative Vice Lords…..and founed their corporation in 1967, just in time to see the West Side burn down in the rioting that followed the death of Martin Luther King.

When the Vice Lord's president, Jamie Brown, and the rest of the Vice Lords "got tired of running around the streets," the 3700 block of 16th Street on the West Side began to fill with their makeshift business enterprises. There were many bills but few profits in an areas where money leaves every night with the nonresident owners of property. When most of them were burned out, the money flow ebbed even further.

The loan making process to the Lords came slow. They applied and waited, submitted budgets and resubmitted them. They got the Y.M.C.A. to act as fiscal agent thru the Operation Bootstrap executive committee which includes, among others, officers of the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Police Department.

A $60,000 loan was approved last April. It provides for a sliding scale of interest from 3 to 6 per cent over a 5 year period with no payments during the first year.

"THIS WILL HELP them move themselves if they can," said Stone. "I know what a first break can do and what charity cannot."

Vice Lord projects included cleaning up the community.
photo by David Dawley

 

Charles Merrill Jr. is the son of the founder of the nation's largest brokerage firm [Merrill-Lynch] and headmaster of the Commonwealth School which he founded in Boston.

One of Merrill's pupils at Commonwealth, margo grey, came out of Chicago's South Side ghetto and, together with Saul Alinsky and the Rev. John Fry of First Presbyterian Church, convinced Merrill he could help tame Chicago's Ranger Nation.

"I'm really two people," said Merrill, "and as such I must deal with two kinds of money. There is the rather conservative Merrill Trust which Ichair and ther is my own personal money which I risk where I see fit.

"I RECOMMENDED that the fund supply $20,000 to the Chicago church for the specific purpose of obtaining a teacher for their neglected children's program. I hoped they could reclaim 6.7. and 8-year-old children given up as unfit by the Chicago school system. This was fully in keeping with other projects the fund has underwritten, and the rest of the directors approved my recommendation.

"The project is not dead," added Merrill. "We knew our money was for a teacher only and that it would not be spent until the full $450,000 for their Community Education Center could be raised. If there was more concern for helping these projects than ther e is for pointing a finger at the Stones the money might have been used by now."

Merrill began to spend his own money…on projects on the South Side in 1962. He said:

"In October and Novemeber I sent two checks for $1000 to the Black Power Starting Now organization which Miss Grey administered. The money was for music and recreation innovation.

"By September of 1969 I had sent $3000 to the neglected chilnren's program and $5,500 to start two newspapers for those in the Rangers with an interest in writing. The papers were third rate, and I believe they have folded, but there was a chance to reach some people thru a medium that was their own, and I took the chance."

MERRILL CONTINUED to support gang activitie s with $3000 checks in January of 1970 to outfit the Black Power Starting Now offices and $10,500 in July of this year to help fund Stone activities like a barber shop, children's game center, community police patrol, and a drum and bugle corps.

"I really can't say wheter or not any of the projects are still active," said Merrill. "I suspect tha nonoe of them are, but I have also been told about the kind of harassment the Chicago Police have been involved in.

"I suppose I should have kept a closer watch on the money," said Merrill. "but I really am a headmaster first so I must trust other people to an extent."

Kettering, grandson of the General Motors research chief who developed the self-starter, also found that remote control ghetto projects administered from his Englewood, Colo. Home, don't always stay in gear.

"The Kettering Foundation, of which I'm a member like everyone else, gave the First Presbyterian Church $50,000 of the $60,000 or so it requested in 1967," said Kettering.

"THE MONEY WAS to go for projects in basic education in the area as well as work education projects and business enterprise training which are desperate needs out there."

Kettering blamed the government investigations of eh O.E.O projects at First Prebyterian Church for creating undue controversy in 1968. When Eugen Hairston of the Stones was jailed shortly thereafter [for solicitation to commit murder], Kettering said the original work was all but lost.

"Gene Hairston was a force for good out there no matter what anybody tells you," said Kettering. "With Gene off the street and the controversy around Rev. Fry and the church, things began to grind to a halt."

By the fall of 1963, a legal defense fund had been born.

"WE THOUGHT THAT if we could ovecome the harassment the police could create with trumped-up arrests, we could create some feeling of hope around the project," said Kettering, "so I arranged with my bank to supply what legal defense needs would arise as long as we could."

Kettering said later that he "couldn't really say how much money was funneled thru the Chicago legal defense fund out of his account, but that the published figure of $260,000 wouldn't surpise me ,altho I can't say exactly howmuch of that was mine."

Did the plan work?

"We were quite discouraged to find that altho the number of acquittals were increased, the number of cases stayed pretty much the same," said Kettering.

"For right now you could say that while I intend to keep any commitments I made about cases already opened, I will phase out my involvement in new cases."

"We may have incurred some failures alongthe way," sadi Kettering, "and those will prove expensive, but we are learning all the time about kids, not just about gnags, and I for one will keep right on."