14th Street Clovers

Founded Founded in or near Near West Side
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Primary ethnicities African American
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Status Extinct

The story of the Clovers dates back to the year 1948 in the “Jew Town” section of the Near West Side neighborhood.  Black southerners had been migrating to the Near West Side for decades before the 1940s but migration picked up in the early 1940s and blacks began migrating heavier into the Jew Town area right by the famous Maxwell Street Market along Halsted Street.  By the later 1940s the black population of the neighborhood had grown quite significant and many more black children wanted to frequent Stanford Park that used to be located at 14th Place and Union.  Stanford Park was a highly coveted Park that offered several recreational activities for neighborhood youth since 1907.  There were parks, a pool and even pitchs to play sports.  This was one of the first parks in the city and was cherished by many west siders.  This was also a park loved by hoodlums and street toughs since it opened.  Throughout the decades of the first half of the twentieth century different ethnic groups would fight over the park.  The Italians and Irish loved to keep the Jews out of the park and Jewish youths often had to knuckle up to fight their way in.  The park was located right in between Little Italy and Jew Town so there was for sure rivalry there.

By the 1940s, as the black population of the Near West Side grew, more and more blacks began to occupy the park much to the dismay of Italian and Irish youths.  By the late 1940s, black residents made Stanford Park a pillar of their social activities.  In the minds of the Italians and the Irish it looked like a take over of the blacks of their beloved park.  This was common all over the city in later years where whites would feel threatened or angered seeing their parks and pools filled with blacks and just like what happened to the Jews in previous decades the blacks would have to fight to use the park.  Different social athletic clubs would fight one another after baseball matches or basketball games until they evolved into something similar to gangs.  The same could be said about the boys near Stanford Park.  The black social athletic clubs would evolve into gangs as they fought the Italian or Irish athletic clubs for the park.  The most notorious of the black clubs were the Clovers of 14th and Halsted and the Imperial Chaplains of Maxwell and Halsted to Roosevelt.  These two clubs fought the Irish and Italians and were allies in the late 1940s but by the early 1950s they began fighting each other.

In the year 1950, the Loomis Courts projects were constructed and Imperial Chaplains and Clovers moved into these buildings and took control.

In the year 1951, members of the Imperial Chaplains and 14th Street Clovers settled in the North Lawndale neighborhood as many Jewish residents moved out of the area. The Chaplains made 16th and Homan down the 16th and Trumbull as their main stronghold. The rivalries between Clovers and Chaplains would now carry over onto these streets.  Although their rivalry kicked off in the early 1950s they were not a completely wild bunch.  Many of times Clovers and Chaplains had to focus on fighting off invading gangs and other hate groups coming from nearby South Lawndale that invaded the neighborhood looking for blacks.

As the Grace Abbott public housing projects opened in the Near West Side neighborhood in 1952, Chaplains and Clovers moved into these buildings, simultaneously, Chaplains and Clovers were also moving into the Jane Addams projects as those projects were now starting to allow blacks to move into the older section.  Both gangs were taking over the ABLA housing projects and were the first to run “The Village.”

By the early 1950s future Vice Lord leader Bobby Gore had joined the Clovers I think in the year 1953 when he was 17 years old.  His brothers were leaders of at least the North Lawndale chapter at the time Donald Lee, Raymond Lee and Elijah “Hawk” Perkins (Source: A Motherless Child by Shelley Fisher).  I’m not sure if Bobby’s brothers were original members or not but they at least seem like originals from the North Lawndale chapter.

In the year 1954, a group broke away from the Chaplains in Jew Town that took on the name “Egyptian Cobras.” The Cobras had their own idea of how to handle issues black youths faced in the neighborhood and the Cobras seemed to have a more violent and extreme approach.

By 1955, more gangs began breaking away from the Chaplains causing a major gang war on the streets of North Lawndale and Jew Town which prompted many more members of this mostly Jewish community to leave the neighborhood, the Chaplains still continued to grow despite losing members to other gangs, the newer members were Junior Chaplains. The Egyptian Cobras also colonized North Lawndale in the Filmore District at 14th and Kedvale.

In The mid 1950s, Chaplains began to spread around the west side heavily as they settled deeply into the Near West Side neighborhood. Chaplains also steam rolled into West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park and could even be found in the Cabrini Green high rise projects as they opened up in 1955, Clovers would also join them there.

In the year 1957, the Henry Horner public housing projects opened their doors for the first time and Imperial Chaplains made their way into these buldings as did their rivals the Egyptian Cobras and 14th Street Clovers. Clovers, Chaplains and Egyptian Cobras were the first to dominate Henry Horner projects.

The Clovers were known to be a rough and tough group, in the Chicago Tribune on March 15, 1957 it was stated that they were one of the toughest gangs in the city, the article also talked about how 6 of their members beat an elderly man and also 5 other youths.  It was in that same year that many Clovers were incarcerated during police Captain Thomas O’ Donnell’s crack down on North Lawndale gangs that led to the creation of the Vice Lords because many youths felt they were unjustly charged during the crackdowns, not to also mention the severe police brutality that happened during these crackdowns.  It was also during these crackdowns that the case of James Halsell came about who was a Clover that was severely beaten with a belt during interrogation in the Fillmore Police station until he had serious welts on his back in May of 1957; this led to an FBI and ACLU investigation.  These crackdowns were made possible by a reporter that went undercover as a Clover in 1957 and attended their meetings and reported they smoked marijuana and drank cheap wine and this somehow led to a crackdown on the gang.

In 1958, the Clovers suffered a severe fracturing as many members were breaking away into their own smaller gangs, this paved the way for the Vice Lords to step in and take over North Lawndale as the Clovers no longer were the biggest gang in that area.

Many Clovers flipped to Vice Lords once the Vice Lords hit the streets of North Lawndale in 1958 including Vice Lord spokesman Bobby Gore.  Clover territory was greatly taken over both violently and bloodlessly (by flipping of members to Vice Lords) by the Almighty Vice Lord machine in 1959. The year 1960 was the last year the Clovers existed, then the rest were completely absorbed into the Vice Lords.

Please send in 1940s, 1950s and 1960s pics!

Questions:

  1. Who was the founder and what happened to him?
  2. Who were the leaders throughout their existence and what years were they in power?
  3. What street corners did they run and what years did each corner pop up and what years did they lose those corners?