I'll Show You How To Fleece A City

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From Robert Conot's American Odyssey, I present Richard "Double Dip Dick" Reading, mayor of Detroit in the late 30s:

No sooner had Reading taken office than he complained that his fifteen thousand-dollar salary was not enough to support him in the style to which he had become accustomed as city clerk. Appointing his son as his executive secretary, he proceeded to utilize his powers as "strong mayor" to establish himself as the vice-czar of the city--a development members of the Good Citizens League had not foreseen when they had succeeded in eliminating the corruption of the ward bosses. Nicknamed "Double Dip" Dick because he demand a take-off not only for himself but also for his son, Reading had a take as high has $55,000 a month. Top Jobs in the police department were so lucrative that there was open bidding, and promotions went to the highest bidder.

Affable and punning, Reading might well have presided for years over his citywide gaming establishment had it not been for the fatal despondency of a jilted lover. In August, 1939, a bookkeeper in a policy joint murdered child and committed suicide after being spurned by her boyfriend. On her body she left letters addressed to the FBI, the governor, and the newspapers, charging that her boyfriend was a "bag man" for the police department. Payoffs to top officials were detailed.

Never had a greater sensation burst upon the city. Circuit Judge Homer Ferguson was appointed as a one-man grand jury. Among the 135 persons indicted were the mayor and his son, the county prosecutor, the sheriff, the superintendent of police, Joe Louis's manager and 80 police officers.

Man. Nothing like that old school Boss Tweed corruption.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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