James was indicted four times for gambling but convicted only once, when he was 53. Then, in the early 1920’s police found a stash of now illegal whiskey in his club. In court “Big Jim” produced a pharmacist license, but the judge was not buying the argument that he was selling the booze for medicinal purposes. The club was shut down.
When asked how much money he had made, Jim O’Leary insisted, “I’ve got enough to take a trip around the world when I sell my shop.” It was a false front. The youngest son of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary died of a heart attack in January 23, 1925, just 56 years old
It would be nice to say that the O’Leary’s had gone from paupers to millionaires in one generation, achieving the Amiercan dream through hard work and stubborn perserverence, but James’ estate was valued at a mere $10,200 - more than most, but hardly millions.
So, by the time James O'Leary died the Irish in America had proven those terrified of immigrants to be wrong. They might have had a strange religion, and when they first arrived, they appeared to be dirty and ignorant to the "nativists" Americans. But up close, they were, on average, pretty much average; thrifty, hard workers, at either honest or illegal jobs. And all things considered the O'Leary's could look back at their lives and say they were not extraordinary at all, just living average American lives, in which, occasionally, extraodinary sparks were struck. And that is what we celebrate every Saint Patrick's day. It makes you wonder what Muslim holiday will be celebrated a generation hench.
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