|Founded||Founded in 1949 in or near North Lawndale|
Formed outside Nathaniel Pope Elementary School at 19th and Albany
|Formerly known as||
Almighty Popes 1949-1973; Almighty Insane Popes 1973-1980
|Colors||Black and Light blue|
|Symbols||Monk and Pope's Hat|
Cross with three slashes above it 1973-present, pitchfork 1978-1992
The original name of the Insane Popes was “Almighty Popes” and the story starts on the west side of Chicago in the year 1949. The Popes first made the newspaper in 1954 when they were battling the “Douglas Park Dukes.” The fight was mentioned in that news paper. The Popes would make the news again in 1956 when they battled the “2-6” gang from Bridgeport at 19th and Albany. Not to be mistaken for the Two Six gang we know today.
The Popes began in 1949 in wake of the beginning of greaser gang wars that started all over Chicago that year as gangbanging was no longer just for slum dwelling youths. I am not sure what triggered the formation of the Popes whether it was invading bands of greasers or if it was the black gangs like Imperial Chaplins and Clovers forming around that same year but this is the year legends say the Popes were born. It all began at Nathaniel Pope Elementary School (1852 S Albany Ave) in the North Lawndale community back when the neighborhood was only 10% white and mostly Jewish. As far as I know the original Popes were not Jewish though. This group named themselves after the school which is where “Pope” comes from.
The North Lawndale neighborhood was a changing neighborhood back in 1955 as white residents were rapidly moving out of the neighborhood while the neighborhood was becoming majority black. Black gangs like the Clovers, Chaplains, Continental Pimps, Roman Cobras and Egyptian Cobras were becoming very strong gangs and now running these streets especially by 1955.
I am not sure if Popes battled the black gangs or not but I have found no testimony or historical evidence they ever did but they likely may have. No matter what the case is the Popes could no longer sustain in North Lawndale by 1957 because the Egyptian Cobras (today known as Mickey Cobras) became too powerful and white flight had really taken its toll on the neighborhood. I am not too sure if the Popes were completely gone by 1957 or if it happened the following year but the Vice Lords were running that area by 1959 making it impossible for Popes or any white gang to have sustained in that area by then.
In 1957 or 1958, the Popes had moved their organization to Brand’s Park near the intersection of Elsdon and Melrose in the Avondale neighborhood. When these older Popes arrived they became a greaser car club as they attended shows and were involved in races. I am not sure how long Brand’s Park lasted but it was closed I think by the late 60s at latest.
The Popes then opened turf in Kilbourn Park sometime in the early 1960s which is on the border of the Irving Park neighborhood and Hermosa. Kilbourn Park was a beautiful park that was highly coveted by greaser gangs in these days. The Irving Park neighborhood itself was often a war zone for white greaser gangs fighting over turf since at least 1949 when greaser gang fights made the news at least twice. Also in the early 60s the Popes went from Kilbourn Park to the North Mayfair section of the Albany Park neighborhood which became a major Pope stronghold. In the early 60s Popes also made their way to Chicago and Wood in the West Town neighborhood.
I am not sure who the early rivals were for the Popes of Kilbourn Park or North Mayfair but at Chicago and Wood they would clash with Latin Kings and Harrison Gents by 1964 as those gangs developed. Popes from Chicago and Wood in the 60s primarily targeted Hispanic gangs but may have had a rivalry with C-Notes and Gaylords too.
In the year 1969, the Gaylords made their way into Kilbourn Park just as the Gaylords were beginning their 1969 conquest in various parts of the city. The Gaylords were opening in nearby Belmont-Cragin and Logan Square so that brought them to the park for recreation. The Popes embraced the Gaylords’ arrival as they both shared a rivalry against Hispanic gangs near the area.
The Popes also had a hang out at Oddo’s Pizza located at Irving Park Road and Kostner in the Irving Park neighborhood.
In 1971, the white gangs on the north side and northwestern streets were feeling outnumbered by Latino gangs, especially since Latino migration was really strong in certain neighborhoods such as Humboldt Park. Many new neighborhoods were feeling the invasion and “white flight” was increasing while Puerto Ricans rushed into buying or renting their old homes. The Latin Kings were swelling in numbers at an accelerated rate while other gangs were following their lead and beginning to grow such as Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples (MLDs). The white gangs felt it was time to unify and call for a cease fire. The two biggest white gangs at the time were the Almighty Popes and the Gaylords. The Simon City Royals were a growing organization but had not quite outpaced the Popes yet but they pledged in. This cease fire or unity was called the “White Power Organization” or “WPO.” During these WPO days all the white gangs would experience incredible growth, especially the Popes.
During these WPO years, the Popes gave Kilbourn Park to the Gaylords to make it their headquarters. I do not know why the Popes allowed this but it could have had to do with Gaylords offering their heavy support when needed in exchange. This was a very close brotherhood having some of the core of WPO beliefs and both groups worked heavily to keep their territories white.
In 1973, Gaylords, C-Notes, Taylor Jousters and PVPs formed an alliance called the “United Five Organization” or “UFO” which obviously didn’t include the Popes but Popes had no beef with the other gangs in UFO especially C-Notes who they had a friendship with.
In the year 1973, Larry “Larkin” Morris who was only 17 years old at the time became the new leader of the Popes in the north west. Larry Morris was a hell of a leader and was big into weight lifting. Larry was like an older brother to many Popes and abstained from drinking and using any drugs, he was purely straight edge and tough as nails. It was said he was fearless and protected anyone in his club. Larry Morris got his nickname after taking a drag of a Lark brand cigarette and choked, they all laughed and nicknamed him “Larkin.” Morris was part of the newer generation of Popes that joined in the late 60s or a little later and were known to be very tough new members, one was Larry’s little brother “Lil Larkin.”
Larkin opened new sections at Berteua and Kolmar at the Kolmar Park Playlot at 4143 N Kolmar Ave to start the “Kolmar Park Popes.” He also opened Independence Park at Irving Park Road and Springfield Ave in Irving Park and he opened Dickenson Park (4101 N Lavergne Ave) in Irving Park. Larkin also opened territory outside the neighborhood in the Jefferson Park community. The Kolmar Park Popes would become legendary and had some of the toughest greasers known. The Popes now became a major part of the Irving Park neighborhood.
Now the Popes had hundreds of members perhaps over 1,000+ members. Larkin along with 3 other members of the Popes created the “Insane” part of their name one day in 1973 while spray painting Pope graffiti on the back of the Sears building at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Cicero Ave. They admired the graffiti and said “Insanity to the max!” as they joked about it they decided the “Insane” moniker would stick and they became the “Almighty Insane Popes.”
In the year 1973, Gaylords began spraying “GL” on the walls over Pope tags and Larkin had a big problem with that. He began to feel the Gaylords disrespected the Popes a lot of times when both gangs hung out. Given the fact that Popes had basically given Kilbourn Park to the Gaylords for their headquarters it really made him more upset. One day Larkin really went off on the Gaylords about the disrespect. Later that night a swarm of Gaylords came out looking for Larkin and the Popes. Near the railroad tracks by the old Sears building between the intersections of Irving Park Road between Kilpatrick and Kilbourn is where a fight happened between Gaylords and Popes that started the war between both gangs.
After the war started the Popes began to hang out with the Simon City Royals as the Royals were not part of the UFO. The Popes also retained a friendship with the C-Notes who were often mediators during the earliest part of the war before 75. Popes also stayed out of conflict with P.V.Ps. Even though the UFO was unified against all enemies none of these gangs liked fighting other white gangs. Actually during that time period of 1973-1975 when Popes were first hanging out with Royals they also had peace with Gaylords at times and all three hung our briefly. It was Bimbo of the Royals that tried to bring all three of them together.
In the year 1974 Popes moved in on new territory in the Logan Square neighborhood and the “Troy Street Popes” opened with a small section which was directly blessed by Kolmer Park and Larkin. This section would only last until about very early 1976. Also, in 1975 new turf opened at Diversey and Mozart in Logan Square, these were the “Polish Popes” and they didn’t last long either only into 1977.
Everything for the Popes would change on day in 1975. One April day in 1975 Larkin was with his brother-in-law Arnold Brazeau as they were cruising down North Keystone when they spotted three Gaylords on the street. Larkin jumped out of the car and began to chase these GLs. Supposedly he was chasing them because nights earlier some GLs broke out Larkin’s windows of his car and one of them was a former Pope that flipped to a GL. During the chase one of the GLs fired four shots at the two but all four bullets missed so Larkin kept chasing them anyway. The GL then fired another group of bullets that struck Larkin and he collapsed dead near 4472. N. Kilpatrick (at a dead end near Wilson and Kilpatrick). He was shot in his abdomen and chest and the killer was the one that used to be a Pope. After this happened the Popes were infuriated over this killing and the Popes sought revenge which put the Popes and Gaylords into a worse war that now couldn’t be meditated like it could be between 73-75. Without Larkin’s leadership the Popes were in some disarray and many members flipped to becoming Simon City Royals while some other small sections fell apart like the Logan Square Popes.
After Larkin’s death in 1975, the Popes suffered police harassment at Independence Park and needed to look for a new section to open. This led the Popes to open another piece of legendary turf in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. Popes began frequenting a local bar at the intersection of Lawrence and Rockwell in this mostly Greek community. This new section was colonized by “Dizzy,” “Greek” and “Dago” all from Independence Park. The Popes also settled at Leland and Rockwell at a game room so this made Rockwell from Leland to Lawrence all Pope turf. As the Popes opened Leland and Rockwell they soon discovered a small group of Latin Kings were already there and soon war began. The Latin Kings at this intersection were outnumbered by the Popes and it is also said that the Popes were much tougher so these Kings consulted with the Latin Kings from Lawrence and Kedzie which was in the Albany Park neighborhood nearby. This brought much more war with Latin Kings as now Kings from a different neighborhood were invading and these Kings were much tougher and greater in numbers especially once they got the Leland and Virginia Latin Kings involved that were in between the Popes and Lawrence and Kedzie Kings.
In the later half of the 1970s the Popes closed down their section at Chicago Avenue and Wood Street.
The Popes at Lawrence and Rockwell also ran into many Gaylords situated in Lincoln Square and the Gaylords of Uptown further intensifying their overall war with Gaylords. There were pockets of Vice Lords in the Uptown, Albany Park and Lincoln Square areas that angered the Popes as the Vice Lords were one of the first enemies in the late 1950s. Sharing the same enemies in the same territories brought the Popes into an alliance with the Simon City Royals in 1975.
In the year 1975, the Popes of Lawrence and Rockwell established an alliance with the Simon City Royals called the “Royal Pope Nation.” The Popes now sided with the Royals over the Gaylords and withdrew from Kilbourn Park as soon as war began with the Gaylords. This mainly was an agreement between the Paulina and Cornelia Royals and the Lawrence and Rockwell Popes.
In April, 1978 the Folk Nation and People Nation alliances were formed in Statesville Prison. Some of the biggest and oldest gangs were invited into the two alliances including the Popes’ biggest allies the Simon City Royals. Since Popes had the “Royal Pope” alliance the Popes were allowed to join the Folk Nation in 1978. The Simon City Royals and Popes were now allies with the newly formed “United Latino Organization” which was a street coalition of the north side gangs that had joined the Folk Nation in prison such as Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples.
When the Folk and People thing happened the Lincoln Square and North Park area Popes followed the Folk bylaws but the Popes from Irving Park, North Mayfair and Jefferson Park wanted nothing to do with Folk and refused to honor it as they remained WPO minded.
In the late 1970s, the Popes opened up new turf at Glenlake and Washtenaw (Green Briar Park) in the North Park neighborhood, a neighborhood usually not known for gang activity.
In 1980, a new leader “Alpo” emerged that took over all Pope sections on the north side and enforced Folk Nation bylaws and even had his popes throw up the pitchfork as their sign. He intended to rid the nation of the WPO stance but the north west area Popes were still not having it. This leader ruled throughout the 1980s and maintained many sections. He also called for the reorganizing and unity of all sections but Winona and Washtenaw wanted to operated independently.
In the year 1983, The Lincoln Square neighborhood had enough of all the gang activity and began neighborhood watch programs that were quite intense. It was so intense that people in the neighborhood would confront Popes directly or call the police on any move the Popes made. It got to the point where the Popes had to close Lawrence and Rockwell. Many gang members were beaten up and thrown in jail by Chicago P.D.
Older Popes then moved off Lawrence and Rockwell and opened Peterson and California (Mather Park) and filled up Glenlake and Washtenaw more.
In 1984, the younger Popes began to congregate once again at Rockwell and Lawrence and by 1985 they were recruiting very well breathing new life back into the Popes. This growth lead to the opening of a new section at Lawrence and Washtenaw (Gross Park) in 1984 that exploded by 1985.
In 1985 the Popes faced extinction if they did not take in members of other races. The majority of gangs were taking in other races including the Vice Lords and Black Gangster Disciples. Most white gangs refused to take in other races but the Royals and Popes started letting them in and shed their racist beliefs. Many older members began to retire while others faced incarceration or prison sentences. There was of course the usual round of flipping that happened that plagued all the white gangs later in the 80s and into the 1990s.
In the late 1980s Lawrence and Rockwell began to fade for the Popes as the value of homes rose quite a bit as yuppies found the neighborhood ideal. The Popes moved their headquarters to Lawrence and Washtenaw (Gross Park). They also still had turf on Lawrence from Western Avenue to the river. Down by the river the Popes slugged it with Latin Kings especially the Latin Kings at Lawrence and Virginia. Near Western Avenue the Popes battled still with Seeley and Ainslie Gaylords.
In the year 1990, Alpo was no longer running the Popes and that’s when Raymond “Mr. Insanity” Reyes took over leadership. Reyes was from “2W” which was at Winona and Washtenaw, a brand new section that just started up that year.
In the year 1990, Popes opened new turf at the Budlong School Yard (Lyman A Budlong School) at Foster and Washtenaw in Lincoln Square. At that same time Gross Park declined as yuppies moved into that area as well, the yuppies also took Leland and Rockwell which was a rival Latin King section. The Popes at Budlong Schoolyard were known as “2W” Popes. From there the Popes spread north up Washtenaw Avenue and opened by Washtenaw and Gregory and Washtenaw and Bryn Mawr, this landed them in the North Park neighborhood. In 1991 the Popes had some quarrels with their closest allies the Simon City Royals at 2W.
During this reign of Mr. Insanity the Popes also opened Central Park and Ardmore (Hollywood Park) in the North Park community. They would also open Bryn Mawr and Sawyer in North Park and Balmoral and Campbell in Lincoln Square.
Lawrence and Rockwell was shut down by 1994 as the police finally had their way and shut them down for good.
2W has had a strong section as Foster and Lincoln right near the Budlong School Yard, I’m not sure if it’s still active or what exactly is still active, but I strongly believe the Popes are still active up north, I just don’t know where anymore. After Mr. Insanity was no longer in power by the year 2000 many territories closed due to gentrification and heavy police activity against the Popes.
Please send in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s pics!
- Were there Popes on the south side in 50s and 60s? Was it in Bridgeport area? If so, what years were they there?
- Who ran the Popes from the late 40s until the mid 70s when Slaughter took over?
- Who were the founders of the Popes and what was their story back in the 50s and 60s? I am looking for more detailed info from this era before the 70s.