Kefauver Crime Committee Hearings – Detroit – February 8, 1951 – WJR Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
As a media event, the Crime Committee Hearings chaired by Tennessee Senator and future vice-Presidential candidate Estes Kefauver was unparalleled. Like the McCarthy hearings, the Kefauver hearings held the attention of most Americans. and from May 1950 – March 1951, unlike any other event that happened before. Once the hearings began, they became something of a national event, with TV providing the new means for connecting millions of onlookers all at once. And throughout the country, people began tuning in. Housewives, in particular, who were more at home in those days than they are today, called their friends to spread the word about the new show.
“From Manhattan as far west as the coaxial cable ran,” wrote Time magazine, “the U.S. adjusted itself to Kefauver’s schedule. Dishes stood in sinks, babies went unfed, business sagged and department stores emptied while the hearings were on.” The drama was real life: crime bosses, street thugs, and U.S. Senators; good guys vs. bad guys.
And offshoots of the Kefauver hearings took place in other cities around America. In early 1951, the Kefauver Hearings traveled to Detroit, opening a can of criminal worms for all the country to see.
The Hearings in Detroit were held Feb. 8-9, 19 of 1951. Witnesses included William Bufalino, Anthony D’Anna, Peter Licavoli, Angelo Meli, William Tocco, in addition to Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams and Detroit Mayor Albert Cobo. Testimony included discussions of the old Vitale-Giannola feud, jukebox rackets, gambling.
Here is report on the days hearings from February 8, 1951 as recorded (on somewhat unreliable tape) and broadcast by WJR Radio in Detroit.
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