" You've been following me all day. There's no need for two cars. I'll ride with you. " Llewelyn Morris Humphreys (One of the many amusing quips attributed to Murray the Hump. On this occasion he had observed that there were two FBI agents waiting outside his home to follow him.)
Article from Jan 21, 1939 Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)
Chicago, a city known for its storied history and iconic skyline, has also been a backdrop to some of the most infamous chapters in American organized crime. One such chapter unfolds around the enigmatic figure of Murray Humphreys, a notorious mobster whose roots trace back to the hills of Powys, Wales.
Born Llewellyn Morris Humphreys on April 20, 1899, Humphreys would go on to become one of the chief architects of Chicago's criminal underworld. His aliases, "The Hump" and "The Camel," would strike fear into the hearts of those who crossed his path. Yet, beneath the veneer of a ruthless mob boss, Humphreys carried a legacy rooted in the struggles of a Welsh family seeking a new life in America.
Welsh Beginnings: An Immigrant's Tale
Humphreys' journey begins in the village of Carno near Newtown, Powys, where his parents, Bryan Humphreys and Ann Wigley, eked out a living on an isolated hilltop farm called Y Castella. The late 19th century brought economic hardship to many Welsh farming communities, and the Humphreys family decided to seek their fortune in the United States.
In the 1890s, before their departure, the couple had another son who would be adopted by a family in the Rhondda Valley, creating a connection to living relatives in Wales that adds a layer of intrigue to Humphreys' legacy. The Humphreys family, armed with hopes for a better life, set sail for America.
From Carno to Chicago: A Rough Start
Murray Humphreys was born in North Clark Street, Chicago, in 1899. Coincidentally, this same street would later become the infamous site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, a criminal event in which Humphreys played a pivotal role. However, his early years were far from the glamorized life of crime depicted in movies.
The Humphreys family's pursuit of the American dream hit a stumbling block when, at the tender age of seven, Murray had to drop out of school to support the family. His father's job loss forced him into the harsh reality of selling newspapers on the Windy City's street corners, marking the beginning of a tumultuous journey that would eventually lead him into the criminal underworld.
Judge Murray and the Making of "The Hump"
Humphreys' adolescence was marked by a series of unfortunate turns, but fate would intervene in the form of a local judge named Jack Murray. This encounter would not only alter the course of Humphreys' life but also contribute to the creation of his new identity.
By the age of 13, Humphreys had already dabbled in petty theft and found himself in the custody of Judge Murray. The judge, inspired by a sense of paternalistic responsibility, attempted to steer the young hoodlum towards a different path—perhaps even a career in law. While he didn't inspire Humphreys to become a lawyer, Judge Murray's lessons proved invaluable in shaping the young man's understanding of the legal system, a knowledge that would serve him well in his criminal endeavors.
It was during this time that Llewellyn Morris Humphreys adopted the name Murray Humphreys, a moniker that would echo through the corridors of Chicago's organized crime for decades to come.
Rise to Infamy: The Capone Connection
Humphreys' journey into the criminal underworld took a significant turn when he decided to hijack bootleg liquor belonging to none other than Al Capone's mob. This audacious move caught the attention of the notorious Scarface himself, who, instead of seeking revenge, saw potential in the smooth-talking young hoodlum.
Impressed by Humphreys' cunning and charisma, Capone offered him a position within the Chicago Mafia, initiating his ascent through the ranks of organized crime. Humphreys' intelligence and ability to navigate the treacherous waters of the criminal underworld quickly became evident, earning him nicknames like "The Hump" and "The Camel."
The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: A Dark Chapter
The annals of American crime history bear witness to the chilling events of February 14, 1929—the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Orchestrated by Al Capone and his trusted enforcers, including Murray Humphreys, this brutal act saw seven members of Bugs Moran's rival gang gunned down in cold blood by assassins disguised as policemen.
Humphreys' role in this gruesome event solidified his standing in the Chicago Outfit, showcasing his strategic prowess in orchestrating high-profile criminal activities.
The Camel's Diplomacy: Negotiation Over Violence
Unlike some of his more hot-headed counterparts in the criminal underworld, Murray Humphreys was known for his preference for negotiation over violence. A man of refined tastes, Humphreys dressed impeccably and moved in social circles that often belied the ruthlessness of his chosen profession.
His philosophy centered around killing as a last resort, placing greater trust in the bribability of lawmen, seemingly respectable businessmen, labor union leaders, and public officials. One of Humphreys' favorite maxims was, "The difference between guilt and innocence in any court is who gets to the judge first with the most." This approach earned him the respect of his peers, including Al Capone, who remarked, "Anybody can use a gun, but 'The Hump' uses his head."
Mob Career and Union Takeovers
From the late 1920s to the early 1930s, Murray Humphreys, alongside key figures like "Red" Barker, William "Three-Fingered Jack" White, and William "Klondike" O'Donnell, played a crucial role in orchestrating the Chicago Outfit's takeover of various labor unions. This move solidified the mob's control over key industries and allowed them to exert influence on a broader scale.
Humphreys' adeptness at fixing situations to keep his fellow mobsters out of the public eye became a valuable asset. Despite his involvement in criminal enterprises, he managed to maintain an air of respectability and often hobnobbed with influential individuals outside the criminal underworld.
Capone's Successor: Taking the Reins
With Al Capone's imprisonment in 1931, Murray Humphreys found himself stepping into the power vacuum within the Chicago Outfit. Taking the reins of the mob, he continued to expand its reach and influence. Humphreys had a finger in almost every pie, from trade unions to banking, and even had sway over newspaper editors. His influence extended to the burgeoning gambling scene in Las Vegas, where he played a crucial role in its development.
The Money Laundering Maestro
Humphreys' legacy isn't confined to the streets of Chicago; he is credited with introducing the art of money laundering to the criminal organization. This financial sleight of hand allowed the mob to legitimize their ill-gotten gains, funneling them through seemingly legal enterprises. Humphreys' strategic mind and understanding of the financial system proved invaluable to the mob's longevity and prosperity.
The Kennedy Connection: A Mob's Role in Politics
As the 1960s unfolded, rumors circulated about Murray Humphreys' involvement in national politics. It is speculated that he played a role in swinging John F. Kennedy's 1960 election, leveraging the mob's influence in key states. Some even claim that he knew of Kennedy's impending assassination, further highlighting the far-reaching tendrils of organized crime into the highest echelons of power.
Public Enemy Number One: The FBI's Pursuit
By the 1960s, Murray Humphreys had become a prime target for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As "public enemy number one," he faced increased scrutiny, and the law enforcement agency sought to bring him to justice. On November 23, 1965, three FBI agents arrived at Humphreys' Marina City apartment with an arrest warrant for perjury—the only criminal charge ever laid against him.
In an ironic twist of fate, Humphreys met his end while engaged in a mundane activity—vacuuming his apartment. A fatal heart attack seized him, sparing him from the legal consequences that loomed on the horizon.
The End of an Era: Legacy and Legends
Murray "The Hump" Humphreys' death marked the end of an era in Chicago's criminal underworld. His legacy, however, lives on in the annals of organized crime, a testament to a man who navigated the dangerous waters of power, politics, and brutality.
The circumstances surrounding Humphreys' death remain shrouded in mystery, giving rise to numerous conspiracy theories. Some speculate that the stress of impending legal action triggered his fatal heart attack, while others entertain the notion of foul play.
In the hills of Powys, Wales, the village of Carno still holds traces of the Humphreys family's origins. The connection to living relatives in Wales adds a layer of complexity to the tale of a man who rose from humble beginnings to become a key player in America's criminal history.