Friday, January 2, 2009

Willie Burns

William J. Burns, better known as Willie, was chief of police in Galveston during the days when the city was wide open. I was once visiting in a local night club, which also was a gambling joint with Willie when a red faced man from Dallas approached us and said, "Boy this is something. They tell me you are the chief of police." Willie grabbed the man and pulled him up close and said, "We are running this city for the benefit of the people If you don't like it, get lost." The man got lost. Another time a man from Dallas whose wife had died and who understood the city visited a local whorehouse and had sex with a prostitute. The woman was new in town and she stole the man's wallet. The next morning the man went to the police station and told Willie about the crime and gave him the name the woman had used. Willie went to the whorehouse, bounded up the stairs and told the woman to give him the wallet. When she denied the crime he slapped her. She produced the wallet and Willie told her to get out of town and never come back. Then he took the wallet, which was intact, and gave it back to the man. "We run an orderly city," Willie told him. When Willie was chief you could park your car on a downtown street, leave the keys in the ignition, leave your billfold on the front seat and leave the windows down, and be gone for several hours and when you came back everything would be just like you left it. One law that Willie enforced was the traffic laws. When he was chief if you ran a stop sign or drove too fast you could count on paying a ticket. The rules were laid down by the mayor and city council and were agreed to by the Big Banker and the head of the Mafia, who had reached an agreement.

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