Once known as a member of one of the most notorious gangs in Chicago, Charles Edward Bey spent the final years of his life making up for his past, according to friends and family.
That life on both sides of the law may be part of the reason that more than 700 people gathered Wednesday for his funeral at St. Andrews Temple on Chicago’s South Side.
"He made a promise to God he will never pick up another gun," said Larry Jamil Mays, a long time friend who served as a pall barer. "As far as I know he kept that promise."
Bey, who died of natural causes at age 67 last week, was the right-hand man of feared gang leader Jeff Fort in the 1960s. Together they formed the Black Stone Rangers, with a membership which eventually numbered the thousands.
In the late 60s, Fort, Bey and the Rangers received a $1 million federal anti-poverty education grant. Bey, along with others were convicted of misspending the money but did not spend time in jail.
On the streets he became a legend. He was arrested in many murders, charged with few -- including the 1970 ambush killing of Chicago Police Officer James Alfano -- but never convicted.
In 1987, he was arrested but never charged for the murder of flamboyant Chicago drug leader Willie "Flukey" Stokes.
But after spending most of his early life involved in crime, Charles Edward Bey decided to make a change in the late 90s. As Chicago Pastor B. Herbert Martin tells it, Bey stood in his pulpit one Mother’s Day and apologized to the community for all the bad things he had done.
From then on, Bey went back to working the streets with a different purpose in mind. Those close to him said he wanted to prevent what had happened to him from happening to others.
"I know Bey made a change," said former warden Richard English. "Sometimes rehabilitation to you and I may not be the same thing to some of those guys who used to be hard core gangers and killers."
Despite all of the violence he caused and all the violence he suffered being a gunshot victim himself, Bey died from what appears to be natural causes.