When notorious gangster Al Capone died 70 years ago—on Jan. 25, 1947—it was quietly, like little else in his life.
As TIME’s report on Capone‘s death made clear, the scars on his face were the outward symbol of his “hot-tempered, dramatic, sentimental and tough” personality. When he moved to Chicago, during Prohibition, that personality turned into a business asset, as his fame spread within the city’s world of bootlegging and brothels. In 1929, during the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, his gunmen put an end to the rival O’Banions. And, as the story explained, winning that war was just one part of the damage he did:
But, though he successfully managed to foil both enemies who wanted to kill him and those who wanted to try him for murder, he was eventually convicted in 1931 for evading taxes. During his time at Alcatraz, he fell ill—the result of an old syphilis case. Released in 1939, he kept to himself, leading a quiet life until his death.
“He was 48,” the obituary concluded. “Death had beckoned to him for years, as stridently as a Cicero whore calling to a cash customer. But Big Al had not been born to pass out on a sidewalk or a coroner’s slab. He died like a rich Neapolitan, in bed in a quiet room with his family sobbing near him, and a soft wind murmuring in the trees outside.”
Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Big Al
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