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Robert Coughlan
January 17, 1955
The biographer of Jack Dempsey (SI, Jan. 10) has made a careful examination of the fight game and its current custodians. Now he reports his findings in an article that makes clear what the shouting on the preceding pages is all about
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January 17, 1955

How The Ibc Runs Boxing

The biographer of Jack Dempsey (SI, Jan. 10) has made a careful examination of the fight game and its current custodians. Now he reports his findings in an article that makes clear what the shouting on the preceding pages is all about

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Joe Louis long ago ceased to have any voice in the IBC, although he continues as honorary "director of boxing" at $15,000 a year. His 20% stock interest is held in trusteeship by his lawyer, Truman Gibson Jr., and accountant Theodore Jones. Gibson is the secretary of the IBC, carries on much business on its behalf, especially in the Chicago area, and is most often its public spokesman there, Wirtz preferring a more modest posture. Gibson's credentials are excellent. Son of a prominent Negro insurance man, he made a brilliant record in college and law school, went on to become a leading young lawyer with interests in politics and community affairs, and during the war served as a special assistant to the Secretary of War. He became Joe Louis' attorney in 1948, and since then has spent most of his time on Louis' affairs and in boxing generally.


Yet Gibson, on close examination, is less a paragon than he appears. In 1949, for instance, the same year that he represented Louis in the formation of the IBC, Gibson was a leading spirit in the creation of an enterprise called Worlds Champions Inc., of which Louis was made president, Sugar Ray Robinson chairman of the board, Arthur S. Freeman vice president, Gibson himself secretary, and Allen H. Schultz director. Worlds Champions Inc. evidently was formed with the single purpose of getting a franchise from the New York Liquor Authority to sell Canadian Ace beer in New York City, particularly in Harlem, where the prestige of Louis' and Robinson's endorsements might be very valuable. But Canadian Ace is owned by one Alex Greenberg and his family, who took it over from members of the old Al Capone gang. Greenberg was known as one of the financial advisors to Capone. Director Allen H. Schultz is Greenberg's son-in-law. In rejecting Worlds Champions' bid for a New York franchise, the liquor authority said, "It is the authority's belief that, like many other prominent and creditable persons, Joe Louis and Ray Robinson have unwittingly allowed their names to be used by persons of evil designs."

The third and leading member of the IBC triumvirate, its president and chief spokesman, is James D. Norris. In Norris' temperament there is an incongruity that is striking and, in the largest sense of the word, tragic. TV viewers know his handsome, rugged face and pleasant voice. He is even more impressive in person: a charming man, physically and socially graceful, big and well made, with the unassuming but powerful manner of a natural leader. One can imagine him against a fumed oak background in Wall Street or Detroit, or at ease in the setting of an ambassadorship. Instead he seems to prefer the rancid milieu of Eighth Avenue and the company of hoodlums.

Norris was born in Chicago in 1906, the oldest son and namesake of a rough and ready Canadian emigrant who made a fortune in wheat speculations and later acquired great holdings in oil and railroads and real estate. At his death in 1952, the elder Norris was worth perhaps $200,000,000. An amateur hockey player (with the Montreal Victorias) in his youth, he kept a fervid interest in hockey and in sports generally and raised his husky son to share his enthusiasm. The ambition of his life was to own a National Hockey League team. This he finally achieved by buying the Detroit Red Wings' franchise. In 1929 he helped build the Chicago Stadium, which he bought outright in 1935.

Thus young James (whose mother died when he was five) was brought up in an atmosphere of speculation and sports, a combination which not unnaturally gave him an early interest in racing. His education, which had briefly involved numerous prep schools, continued informally at Colgate, where, not having the proper entrance requirements, he spent several months with private tutors and then drifted away. His mind was not on the books, but with the bookies. This already had led him to the first of his more conspicuous criminal associations.

As Norris told the story recently, he was about 18 or 19 when, on his way home from the race track one day, a pair of stick-up men waylaid him and relieved him of $1,100. A few days later he ran into a man named Sam Hunt. Hunt was a "trigger man" for the Capone gang and head of that organization's "complaint department"; he was known as "Golfbag" because of his dissembling way of carrying a golfbag with a submachine gun nestled inside it. Norris mentioned the robbery to Hunt and, he says, "in three or four days I had my money back. Well! Hell, I said to myself, this is all right!"


Both Norris and Golfbag have traveled a far piece since then. For some years Golfbag has headed gambling operations on Chicago's South Side, and police believe that nowadays he is the gambling czar of the whole Chicago area. He also is "interested" in horses. In 1942-43 he was twice tried for the murder of a Negro houseboy named Michael Wade, but was let off by hung juries. (Incidentally, his chauffeur bodyguard, who was present at the killing, is often loaned to Truman Gibson Jr.) Throughout he has remained a close personal friend of Norris. They have shared holidays, and Hunt several times has been Norris' house guest. Norris said recently, "Hunt is not an associate of mine in any business way. I know what people say, and it hurts me. But Hunt has always been 100% with me." To another questioner, he said, "Sure I know Sam Hunt. I know nothing about his alleged activities in business. With me he is always a gentleman and good company. If I want to see him it's my own damn business."

If Golfbag were Norris' only criminal associate, one would be tempted to assign the cause to a perverse but perhaps rather admirable loyalty to an old friendship founded on an old favor. But this is not the case. Norris' primary interest changed from racing—although he still has a stable, and perhaps finds Hunt's friendship helpful in track affairs—to boxing, and he acquired interests in several fighters.

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