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Ness, Eliot

Ness, Eliot, 1903–57, American law enforcement officer, b. Chicago, grad. Univ. of Chicago (1925), famous as the leader of the Untouchables, the Justice Dept. squad who fought the gangster Al Capone during prohibition . Ness joined the U.S. Treasury Dept. in 1927, and two years later became a special agent in the Justice Dept. Nicknamed the Untouchables for their incorruptability, he and his nine-man team disrupted Capone's illegal breweries and speakeasies, and their efforts helped lead to the successful prosecution of Capone for federal tax evasion. Ness later wrote of his exploits in The Untouchables (1957, with O. Fraley), which became the basis of a popular television series and several films. He also served (1933–35) as head of the Justice Dept.'s alcohol tax unit, and later was director (1935–41) of public safety for Cleveland, Ohio, and headed (1941–45) the Federal Security Agency's Division of Social Protection.

See biographies by P. W. Heimel (1997) and D. Perry (2014) study by K. Tucker (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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