In my Don Bolles homicide-related Newsletter No. 50, entitled “A Case of Curious Coincidences”, first published in my February 26, 2009 newsletter and now this blog, I also provided brief commentary on the much earlier murder in Illinois of the first wife of Motorola founder Paul Galvin. Along with her young maid, Edna Sibilski, the middle-aged Lillian Galvin was shot to death in 1942 in her upscale Evanston home in what was made to look like a burglary-gone-bad. However, it actually could have been a non-divorce, hired-gun alternative to an increasingly dysfunctional marriage.
After release of that newsletter, I later discovered that author Ovid DeMaris in his 1969 book Captive City, the classic volume on the once-excessive Mafia presence in Chicago, described Illinois State’s Attorney Thomas Courtney and his chief investigator Captain Dan Gilbert as having been two of the most corrupt law enforcement officials in state history back in their day. These, of course, were the very same two men, both acknowledged personal friends of Paul Galvin, who conducted their myopic inquiry into the double homicide of Galvin’s wife and her maid, which inquiry predictably went nowhere.
In my 2009 newsletter (this blog), I also noted that Paul “Needle Nose” Labriola, a Windy City mob figure of the 1940s and 1950s, had been quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, “They never should have planned the Galvin killing when the maid was in the home,” obviously suggesting Mafia knowledge of the crime. According to author DeMaris, the pointy-beaked and loose-lipped Labriola later was found garroted and stuffed in the trunk of a car.
In 1965, Harry Mark Petrakis produced an authorized and conspicuously friendly biography of Paul Galvin, called The Founder’s Touch. In discussing Galvin’s determined opposition to any recognition of trade unions at Motorola, Petrakis illustrated Galvin’s claim of non-union worker satisfaction and loyalty by pointing to an instance in which union organizers began passing out handbills outside a Chicago-area plant. As the author told it, the organizers “were promptly driven off with blows by a group of factory people.” Really? Having met a number of long-standing Motorola employees, I frankly find that quite hard to picture. Soon after Newsletter No. 50 was issued in 2009, I had occasion to interview journalist-historian Burton Hersh in Florida, author Gus Russo in Maryland, and retired Chicago police official John Flood in Nevada. All three are recognized experts on Chicago Mafia activities during the period in question, and I learned the following:
- from Hersh that many Chicago-area companies routinely used the Mafia for union-busting, that mob guys “hired themselves out” to break up union rallies and demonstrations;
- according to Russo, Chicago-area corporations routinely used “mob friends” to bust union efforts or to set-up sweetheart unions;
- and from Flood, otherwise respectable Chicago-area corporations routinely would “rent low-level mob goons” to shut down union organizing drives.
That certainly sounds to have been a more likely scenario for Motorola in the Chicago area as well. In other words, even before the strange death there of his first wife, Paul Galvin already could have known a few phone numbers to call when that kind of help was needed. And that could have been how the ensuing saga really began.
Again, in the 2009 Newsletter No. 50 (here), I also reported having been told by a retired Motorola security official in Arizona that the organized crime theft of gold from company electronic plants in Phoenix, especially from the facility at 52nd Street and McDowell, had been “a huge problem.” How big was “huge”? In the newsletter’s aftermath, a couple of former in-house Motorola accountants in Phoenix sent word to me that—over the 1968-82 span of such Mafia diversion of Motorola gold—there could have been at times “as much as a million dollars a month at risk.” They knew how much gold Motorola was buying, but they lacked effective controls, they complained, over how much gold the company was actually using. Bear in mind that, because local journalist Don Bolles was killed in 1976 before he could expose it, the mob scam went on for six more years.
Early this year, after copies of Newsletter No. 50 had been circulated without my foreknowledge by a former Motorola employee in Arizona to some of his other retired colleagues here, a number of them invited me to lunch in a private dining room at a well-known Valley steakhouse so that we could talk about the various Motorola-related issues in more detail. Following considerable discussion, almost all of them seemed quite receptive to what I had described in the piece. Only a few appeared to be a bit dismayed by, even resistant to, its central allegations.
In addition to collective confirmation of Motorola’s anti-union bias stemming from Paul Galvin’s reign, one of this group who had held a mid-management position at a Phoenix-area
plant described once having hired a Black applicant for a particular job opening as the candidate best qualified. He later was warned by someone above him in the company’s hierarchy that the decision might cost him his own job. It was explained to him that then Motorola CEO Bob Galvin, who held that top corporate post for almost three decades from his father’s death in 1959 until 1986, was actively intent on minimizing the hiring of black employees. As CEO he reportedly justified his informal policy of racial discrimination by claiming that the shooter who had killed his mother years ago in 1942 was suspected of being a Black fellow. Bob Galvin himself recently died in his own retirement back in Illinois in 2011.
Several years ago, members of the extended family of Edna Sibilski, the maid also murdered with Lillian Galvin, re-opened lines of communication with the Evanston Police Department in Illinois, seeking an update on that very old “cold case.” Through Evanston PD, they subsequently got in touch with me as well, still trying after all these years to make sense of what truly might have happened. Conversely, Evanston PD has not reported any such followup contacts over the many years from surviving members of the Galvin clan, perhaps not so interested in sorting out the violent tragedy that occurred there.
Copyright © 2013 Don Devereux, All Rights Reserved
Journalists, historians, teachers, and students are free to quote from any of this material in writings of their own, provided that they do so with proper attribution and acknowledgement of applicable copyrights.