1945 : Michigan State Senator Assassinated Before Testifying About Legislative Bribes

When:
January 11, 2021 all-day
2021-01-11T00:00:00-05:00
2021-01-12T00:00:00-05:00

1944 Senator Warren G. Hooper Campaign Poster

On Jan. 11, 1945, Sen. Warren G. Hooper was assassinated only after two weeks in office as a senator. A passer-by happened upon Hooper’s burning Sedan on a rural road near Springport. Inside the vehicle, Hooper lay, shot three times in the head.

Hooper was scheduled to testify before a grand jury the next day as the key witness in a corruption case involving bribes for legislators to influence a horse racing bill.  In that same case three grand jury witnesses committed suicide under “suspicious circumstances,” according to a Grand Rapids Press report.    Hooper’s death signaled a serious blow to the corruption investigation, and his killer or killers were never discovered.

After Hooper’s death the original bribery investigation snowballed and resulted in 62 convictions, including 23 legislators.

The Hooper murder prompted the publishing of at least three books. The nonfiction books are “Three Bullets Sealed His Lips” and “Payoffs in the Cloakroom, the Greening of the Michigan Legislature 1938-1946” by Bruce A. Rubenstein from the University of Michigan-Flint and Lawrence E. Ziewacz of Michigan State University. Michigan Court of Appeals Judge William C. Whitbeck also penned a new legal thriller, “To Account For Murder”, based on the Hooper murder.

Addendum:

On June 15, 1948, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered three former Purple Gang members to serve prison terms for plotting the state Sen. Warren Hooper murder, although none of the three were convicted of the killing.  Myron Selik   and brothers Harry and Sam Fleisher lost their appeal on the Calhoun County conviction that they plotted the murder in O’Larry’s Bar in Detroit. Two gunmen testified that they had been offered a cut of a $15,000 pie to kill the Senator, but that they had pulled out of the deal.

Hooper was a star witness in the Carr-Sigler legislative graft grand jury investigation until he was murdered Jan. 11, 1945, as he was driving from Lansing to his Albion home. Despite a $25,000 reward, nobody was ever arrested for pulling the trigger in Hooper’s death’

Sources:

Michigan Every Day by Patrick Sullivan and Carole Everly, Eberly Press, 2009.

Emily Lawler, “Death, Drugs, and Skullduggery : A Brief History of Michigan Political Scandals“, MLive, August 21, 2015; updated August 24, 2015.

Brad Flory, “Graft, gangsters and Jackson County’s most notorious unsolved murder”, MLive, January 9, 2015.

Leanne Smith, “Peek Through Time: Politician’s shooting death in 1945 is still a mystery”, MLive, February 12, 2011.

“On the senator who stood up to the Purple Gang – and lost”, including a cover from the newspaper.

“Poster a Reminder of Hooper Mystery”, Albion Recorder, Monday, October 19, 1998, pg. 4.

Ziata Meyer, “State senator about to testify on corruption is killed”, Detroit Free Press, January 8, 2011.

Michigan Appeals Judge William Whitbeck’s new novel, To Account for Murder, has renewed interest in the Hooper case.

Detroit Free Press

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