William Lynn Parkinson sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, IL, and after a daytime bender went missing on October 26, 1959. He was last seen about 7:00 pm in the lobby of the Drake Hotel where he maintained an apartment, and six months later on April 24, 1960 his submerged body was recovered from the breakwater rocks at the city's new filtration plant on Lake Michigan. An inquest jury ruled that Judge Parkinson died of drowning but citing "elements of mystery" was unable to determine time of death or who was responsible. Indeed, to this day it's unclear whether the jurist's death was the result of suicide, murder or an accident. However, a compelling case can be made that Judge Parkinson was a closet homosexual under blackmail threats from the Chicago Outfit, and remorsefully killed himself in an alcoholic depression after reversing two convictions for Paul DeLucia a/k/a Paul "the Waiter" Ricca which shaved six years off the mob boss's prison sentence.
DeLucia was convicted on three counts of tax evasion in 1958, and was sentenced nine years -- three years on each count -- in a federal prison. The conviction was Team America's biggest trophy since it locked up DeLucia's predessor Al Capone on similar charges nearly thirty years earlier, and the Chicago Outfit and its fixer Murray "the Camel"or "Curly" Humphreys were pulling out all the stops to spring DeLucia.
A May 12, 1961 FBI memo describes Humphreys as follows:
HUMPHREYS has been leader of underworld in Chicago since 1920s and is only leader of CAPONE mob who is currently active in Chicago as leader of underworld. HUMPHREYS operates as “elder statesman” of Chicago underworld and his functions include corruption of public officials and direction of defenses of underworld figures on trial. Over 100 associates identified herein including underworld associates and underlings, attorneys, businessmen, labor leaders, politicians, public officials, U.S. Congressmen and law enforcement officers.
An informant advised the G-men that "HUMPHREYS is known among his associates for his outstanding undying devotion and loyalty to his associates," and "it is HUMPHREYS reputation that he will leave no stone unturned in order to protect his associates from law enforcement agencies and provide them an opportunity to make a living."
The FBI described DeLucia as "a long time close associate of HUMPHREYS in that both have been leaders of organized crime in the Chicago area since the 1920's." DeLucia was among five Chicago mobsters for whom Humphreys secured paroles in 1947 through then-Attorney General Tom Clark by promising him the next opening on the U.S. Supreme Court through the mob's influence with President Harry Truman. Humphreys got his boys free, and in 1949 Clark took his seat on the Supreme Court. The Chicago Tribune lambasted Clark's appointment by declaring his "utter unfitness for any position of public responsibility and especially for a position on the Supreme Court," and specifically pointed to "his considerable role in releasing the Capone gangsters after they served only the bare minimum of their terms." Of course, it was quite an achievement for Humphreys, and nearly two decades later the fixer still was crowing over the maneuver in a 1964 conversation with criminal associates which was picked up by an FBI bug:
HUMPHREYS detailed his role in the paroles which were obtained by five major Chicago hoodlums in 1947. HUMPHREYS furnished information indicating that these paroles had been granted by THOMAS CLARK, then the Attorney General of the United States, after HUMPHREYS was able to influence CLARK through one [name redacted] formerly an official of the Department of Justice who was a former law partner of Attorney General Clark. HUMPHREYS also indicated that until the scandal pertaining to these paroles broke, CLARK provided favorable treatment to Chicago hoodlums, HUMPHREYS in particular, but that after the scandal took place, CLARK refused any further cooperation to Chicago hoodlums.
Humphreys later provided his unique services for DeLucia's 1958 tax evasion trial. According to a February 15, 1961 memo an FBI source advised that Humphreys sent the principal witness out of the country after generously purchasing his home, and retained a private detective to assess which jurors could be compromised. However, DeLucia still got convicted on three counts and was sentenced to three years in a federal facility on each count to run consecutively for nine years. As was his nature Humphreys worked overtime to wrong the right.
In December 1959 a three-judge appellate panel on which Judge Parkinson sat reversed DeLucia's conviction on two counts and took six years off his prison sentence. Humphreys rarely sought a complete victory which would generate suspicion of an obvious fix, and he typically left something on the table which could provide cover. For example, when Humphreys provided the mob's strategy for the 1962 trial against five Chicago mobsters on a whiskey heist he arranged for one -- Joseph "Ruffy" Liscandrello -- to get dismissed a third day into trial by faking a heart attack while the case proceeded against the four others including Jimmy "the Monk" Allegretti who then were convicted. Sometimes a mob win is losing four defendants but saving one at a criminal trial. Or as in the DeLucia case serving three years but shaving off six on a prison sentence. The mob underworld understands that criminal convictions and serving time are occupational hazards, and as a practical matter often can only manage rather than eliminate these risks by a judicious exercise of its corrupting influence. In a March 12, 1962 document the FBI paraphrased a Humphreys conversation in which the fixer said "that his group should be very careful not to ask many favors from Judge JOSEPH POPE, now deceased, so that nothing could 'splash back' on Judge POPE which would thereafter be subject to use against him when the hoodlum group puts the pressure on public officials under their control and influence to name Judge POPE a United States District Judge."
Shortly after DeLucia and Humphreys got their good news from the appellate court Judge Parkinson suffered an emotional breakdown as reported by Chesly Manning in a November 15, 1959 article ("How An Honored Judge Broke Down And Then Staggered Away Into Oblivion") about his mysterious disappearance. Even at that time there was open speculation that the jurist was feeling guilty over getting compromised by the mob, and Manning writes:
In recent months his mind had been troubled, as if by pangs of conscience. He was afflicted with anxiety neurosis, and had sought increasing solace in "the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears." In the absence of other reasons for the Judge's depression, Chicago police and FBI agents searched for possible clues in some of his decisions as a judge. In one case, the court reversed the income tax fraud conviction of Paul (the Waiter) Ricca, a chieftain of the gang formerly headed by Al Capone, on two of three counts, and reduced the prison sentence of the notorious corruptionist from nine to three years.
Manning further reports that "some time after the Ricca decision last January Parkinson began expressing misgivings about his work as a judge," and told his fellow jurists and family members "I'm no good as a judge, no good to myself, no good to my wife. I might as well be dead." Among the establishments at which Judge Parkinson reportedly was drowning his sorrows was "the notorious Shoreline, owned by the Chicago crime syndicate."
The Shoreline was notorious because it was both mob-owned (allegedly) and a gay bar. The dive at 7 West Division near State Street was managed by Ralph Marco, and in Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Before Stonewall, author St. Sukie de la Croix describes the Shoreline as "a popular gay bar from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s" which was "syndicate owned," and "a back room at the bar was used for card playing and meetings among police captains, mobsters and politicians."
An FBI bug picked up a Humphreys conversation after Judge Parkinson's body was discovered in Lake Michigan, and the transcript quotes him saying the following:
PARKINSON they tell me that he must have been a queer. That's the story around here. It was hush hush. They found the corpse. They found his body a little while ago. Right over here at Oak Street. He was over on North Avenue every night drinking. Do you know the FBI wasn't interested in finding him.
The FBI then explains that "PARKINSON referred to is apparently Federal Appeals judge W. LYNN PARKINSON whose body was found in Lake Michigan about a year ago."
If Judge Parkinson ensured a favorable decision for Paul DeLucia after being blackmailed by the Chicago Outfit over his homosexuality then no doubt the poor man would feel he's "no good as a judge, no good to myself, no good to my wife," and "might as well be dead." However, the actual truth may always remain elusive. The FBI not only "wasn't interested in finding him" according to Murray Humphreys but the Bureau apparently also wasn't interested in keeping its investigative file on Judge Robinson's tragic death. Friends of Ours filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI for all documents on Judge Robinson but was informed that none existed. It's not unusual for the FBI to purge files in accordance with set policies but typically when this happens the FBI advises the FOIA requester that responsive documents once existed and then identifies the year in which they were destroyed. However, with regard to William Parkinson, there was not even an acknowledgement from the FBI that it ever had a file on the federal judge.
Maybe it's sometimes best to scrub history. Ain't that America?
The FBI files for Murray Humphreys long have been publicly available, and reveal in disturbing detail the pervasive influence of the Chicago Outfit in corrupting public officials from city wards to Washington, D.C. The pernicious role of organized crime in the governing institutions of the United States certainly is among the country's more shameful moments.