For those who grew up in Chicago, there are BIG names that had much infamy; aka, Al Capone criminally, and politically, the powerful Richard J. Daley, to name a few, but as relates to the violence in Chicago's south side Englewood community; there are two names that are legendary to these: Jeff Fort, founder of Blackstone Rangers/Black P. Stones/El Rukn's, and Larry Hoover: founder of The Black Gangster Disciples.
These two men have had more impact on a generation than any President, mayor, congressman, senator, businessman, etc., in recent memory. Their charisma, talent for leadership, organizational genius and fearlessness, help to shape two of the largest, most feared, organized and ruthless gangs in U.S. history.
Long before the Crips and the Bloods, the Blackstone Rangers(El Rukn's), started in 1959 by Eugene "Bull" Hairiston and Jeff Fort while both were locked up in St. Charles, Illinois' juvenile detention center; they formed a group for protection, out of the street where Jeff's family lived(Blackstone). Their ultimate goal was absolute power. And they meant it. No one could understand what was Jeff's power and hold over these big strong guys; but he had it and he knew how to use it. They operated like a tight military unit.
Police were even scared of them.
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Gangster. Known as "King Larry," leader of the Gangster Disciple Nation. Born Larry Hoover on November 30, 1950, in Jackson, Mississippi. His parents moved the family north to Chicago, Illinois, when Hoover was four years old. By the time he was 12 years old, Larry was on the streets with his friends. Calling themselves "The Supreme Gangsters," the group would often ditch school together and ride the El train around the city. Occasionally, they would engage in petty crimes, including stealing and mugging. His criminal activity soon evolved to shootings and assault.
The first rule of the Gangster Disciples was "Secrecy and Silence".
As the gang grew, Hoover emerged as the natural leader. Along with rival gang leader David Barksdale, Hoover decided to merge their gangs into one: the Gangster Disciple Nation. In 1969, after Barksdale was killed in a shooting, Hoover took the reins of the Gangster Disciples, which now had control of Chicago's South Side. Under Hoover's rule, the Gangster Disciples took over the South Side drug trade, making more than $1,000 a day in profits.
By the age of 24, Hoover had been in and out of prison several times, and had endured six separate shooting attempts on his life. Each time, he survived, and doubled his retaliation efforts. But on February 26, 1973, Hoover went too far. He and another Gangster Disciple, Andrew Howard, shot and killed dealer William Young after a heated argument over money. Both Hoover and Howard were arrested, and sentenced to 150 to 200 years in prison. Hoover was sent to Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois, to serve out his term.
But Hoover's power seemed only to grow inside Stateville. He began protecting other inmates, who then became devotees and new recruits for the Gangster Disciple Nation. His control over the other prisoners was recognized by the warden's office, which began looking to Hoover as a positive influence to quell riots and uprisings within the prison system.
Growth and Development
Hoover, inspired by the biography of Mayor Richard J. Daley, began discouraging violence among his followers. Instead, he made education mandatory for members of the Gangster Disciples, and instructed his army to "go to school, learn trades and develop...talents and skills, so that we will become stronger in society."
Changing the GD of "Gangster Disciple" to "Growth and Development," Hoover's move to reform began gaining positive attention from the outside. Growth and Development created nonprofit organizations that registered voters, a music label that helped needy children, a series of peaceful protests to fight the closing of public programs, and even a clothing line for charity.
Dubious prison officials, however, saw Hoover's good intentions as a ploy to get out of prison and resume his illegal activities. While friends and allies on the outside lobbied to get Hoover paroled for his contributions to society, law enforcement agents say Larry was finding new ways to expand his criminal ventures. The Gangster Disciples had grown to more than 15,000 members in at least five states. Their drug profits had also risen well into the millions of dollars—all of which gang members attributed to the leadership of Larry Hoover.
Transferred to a minimum security prison in Vienna, Illinois, Hoover was living a luxurious lifestyle that involved new clothes, expensive jewelry, specially prepared meals, and private visitations from friends and loved ones. Suspicious authorities began wire-tapping Hoover's private meetings, and discovered that he was running the Gangster Disciple group from within the prison system.
Worse still, informants revealed that all of Hoover's nonprofit organizations were actually fronts for laundering drug money. According to the testimony of Gangster Disciple members, none of the proceeds for any of the so-called charities actually went to helping anyone in need.
On August 31, 1995, after a 5-year undercover investigation by the federal government, Hoover was indicted for drug conspiracy, extortion, and continuing to engage in a criminal enterprise. He was arrested at the Vienna Correctional Center by federal agents, and moved to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago to stand trial. In 1997, Hoover was found guilty on all charges, and sentenced to six life sentences. Hoover is currently serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado.
The violence and chaos that has been recently reported about Chicago's south side is nothing new. It's just a continuation of a legacy that began a long time ago.
I think of all of the lives that have been lost because of the senselessness of gang life. Almost 2 generations of Black males have perished because of the influence of these two men. The sad reality of this is that many of these young men had fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who lived the life. A generational curse in full effect.
Obviously, Larry Hoover and Jeff Fort had natural gifts; but they were used in the wrong way. Both men are imprisoned in Federal Colorado Supermax prison, which also houses the Uni-bomber.
And the price that was paid was in blood.
Can Chicago ever stop the violence?
Someone once told me that the richest place on earth is not a gold or diamond mine. It is a graveyard. Because graveyards are filled with people who never lived up to their potential.
This is the reality of gang life.