Last Living Capone Wants Great Uncle Pardoned | NBC Chicago

Last Living Capone Wants Great Uncle Pardoned

In her book, "Uncle Al Capone," Deirdre Capone tells tales, not only about her famous family, but her own journey carrying such a nefarious name



    (Published Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012)

    It’s one thing to grow up as the non-famous member of a famous family, carrying a name like Lincoln, or Einstein, or Roosevelt.

    What about Capone?

    "I hid for most of my life who I was," said Deidre Marie Capone, Al Capone's great niece and the last to carry the family name.

    "I still hear the sound of his voice in my head," she said. "I can still see the color of his blue eyes."

    Now 72, Deidre Marie Capone was just seven years old when her great uncle died. Her memories of the mobster in his declining years were of happy times at his home on South Prairie Avenue.

    "You know, we ate together. We sang together. He taught me to swim," she recalled. "Meals would last a minimum of four hours."

    The man who struck terror into the hearts of everyday Chicagoans, and even his rivals in the bootlegging trade, was to her simply "Uncle Al." She said she carries memories of catching smoke rings on her fingers as Scarface Al and his cronies smoked stogies in the parlor. But she also remembers the armed guards who watched the front and rear of the home whenever the mob boss was in residence.

    "The drapes, the heavy brocade drapes, were always pulled over the first level," she said.

    Capone said she has come to grips with her great-uncle’s nefarious past. She acknowledges the violence. But urges critics to consider the times.

    "Was there blood shed during that era? Of course there was," she said. "I equate that era to our American west."

    She said her grandfather, Ralph "Bottles" Capone, the mobster's older brother, painted a different picture than the one most Americans have seen in the movies.

    "He told me, and he swore to me, that no innocent person was ever harmed. No woman was ever made to do anything that she did not choose to do on her own. And no child was ever endangered," she said.

    In her book, "Uncle Al Capone," Deirdre Capone tells tales, not only about her famous family, but her own journey carrying such a nefarious name.

    "You know, nobody could have anything to do with me," she said, speaking of the moment when fellow students and teachers in her grade school realized who she was. "And I went to that same campus all the way through high school. And none of those children had anything to do with me."

    Despite that, today Deirdre Capone feels the need to rehabilitate, or at least put in perspective, her famous uncle’s image.

    "Did he break the law, yes," she says. "But the way they told me, (he said) 'If I’m guilty of breaking the law, then all my customers are as guilty as I am.'"

    And the killings?

    "People who got into that business knew full well what the rules were," she said.

    Deidre Marie Capone will tell you unapologetically that she thinks her great uncle's tax evasion trial was probably a railroad job, and that she is convinced he had nothing to do with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Family lore, she says, told a different story than the popular version.

    "That was not his m.o., the way that whole thing went down. My uncle told me that it was actually the police who did the killing in there," she said.

    And as the last Capone, Deirdre said she even sees a day when Chicago could embrace its most notorious citizen.

    "My wish would be that Al Capone, and Ralph Capone, would be pardoned," she says. "And I would love to see your mayor, Rahm Emanuel, make them favorite sons of Chicago."