Filed Under Crime

"Black Jack" McGinty

From the Old Angle to the Desert Inn

Like world champ Johnny Kilbane, Thomas McGinty saw boxing as a way out of the poverty that was endemic among Irish immigrants in early twentieth century Cleveland.

He wasn't called "Black Jack" when, in 1912, he married Helen Mulgrew from West 67th Street and the two newly weds moved into a house at 1377 West 69th Street. In 1912, he was Tommy McGinty, and he was one of Cleveland's best featherweight boxers.

Like world featherweight boxing champion Johnny Kilbane, Tommy McGinty was a second generation Irish-American who grew up in Cleveland's old Angle and saw boxing as a way out of the poverty that was endemic to the Angle in early twentieth century Cleveland. By 1909, Tommy McGinty, just like Johnny Kilbane, was boxing under the management of the legendary Jimmy Dunn. Also like Kilbane, McGinty moved uptown in the years just before World War I to what is now the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. However, while Kilbane went on to win the featherweight boxing title in 1912, McGinty's career was cut short in 1911 by an injury he suffered in a fight. Turning lemons into lemonade, McGinty withdrew from the ring and became one of Cleveland's earliest and most successful fight promoters.

In addition to promoting boxing matches in Cleveland, however, Tommy McGinty also promoted gambling, operating a cheat spot at 2077 West 25th street that was famously raided by Cleveland Safety Director Elliot Ness on July 21, 1936. It was his promotion of gambling that gave Tommy McGinty the moniker "Black Jack" McGinty.

While McGinty's cheat spot on West 25th street catered to a lower economic class, McGinty also provided gambling opportunities to the rich and famous. In 1930, he built the Mounds Club on Chardon Road, just across the Lake County line. The Mounds Club was famous in Cleveland for two decades as a swanky night club that featured lively entertainment, alcohol and gambling. Like McGinty's cheat spot on West 25th Street, the Mounds Club too was often the target of raids by local law enforcement officials.

In 1950, after the State of Ohio had closed down the Mounds Club, Tommy McGinty, now better known as Thomas J. McGinty, took his gambling operations national and, along with several organized crime figures from Cleveland, founded the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. McGinty's ownership of the Desert Inn, as well as his association with alleged organized crime figures Moe Dalitz and Morris Kleinman, soon drew the attention of federal authorities. In 1951, McGinty was subpoenaed to testify before Senator Estes Kefauver's committee on organized crime in America.

McGinty avoided federal prosecution and shortly thereafter retired to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he died in 1970--a long way away from the home that he and Helen Mulgrew shared on West 69th Street in 1912.

Images

Thomas J. McGinty (1892-1970) This 1925 photograph captures the image of Tommy McGinty as one of Cleveland's earliest and best boxing promoters. In 1930, McGinty successfully promoted Cleveland's first world boxing championship fight in nine years when he arranged for welterweight champion Jack Thompson to fight Cleveland's Tommy Freeman at League Park on September 5. Freeman outpointed Thompson to win the world welterweight boxing championship. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
The Boxing Promoter, 1914 This 1914 Plain Dealer article contains one of the earliest references to Tommy McGinty as a Cleveland boxing promoter. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library
Tommy McGinty, 1911 Tommy McGinty began boxing professionally in Cleveland in 1909 at age 17. He trained under and was managed by Jimmy Dunn, who also trained and managed world featherweight boxing champion Johnny Kilbane. McGinty was a promising featherweight boxer, but his boxing career was cut short by an injury he suffered in a boxing match in 1911. This photo was taken in that same year. Imaged courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Ness Raids McGinty's Cheat Spot, 1936 This article from the March 29, 1936 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer describes the raid Cleveland Safety Director Elliot Ness conducted upon Thomas McGinty's gambling operation at 2077 West 25th Street. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library
Kefauver Committee, 1951 In this 1951 photograph, a smiling Thomas McGinty is shown testifying before U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver's committee on organized crime in America. Despite frank testimony in which he acknowledged his many gambling and other illegal activities over the years in Cleveland and elsewhere, McGinty was not prosecuted by federal authorities. He successfully retired to Florida, where he died in 1970. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections Date: 1951
Mounds Club The stage in the main room of the Mounds Club featured some of Cleveland's best entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s. Thomas McGinty, who built the Mounds Club, sold his interest in the club in the late 1940s and opened up a new club in Las Vegas--the Desert Inn. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections

Location

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “"Black Jack" McGinty,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 29, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/326.