|Founded||Founded in 1956 in or near North Lawndale|
Formed outside Nathaniel Pope Elementary School at 19th and Albany
|Formerly known as||
Almighty Popes 1956-1973; 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 1956. The North Lawndale neighborhood was a changing neighborhood back in 1956 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. Gangs were all over Nathaniel Pope Elementary School (1852 S Albany Ave) and soon the white youths, who were becoming outnumbered, started their own gang that they named after Nathaniel Pope School called the “Almighty Popes.” They were named after Nathaniel Pope Elementary School. These Popes hung out right outside the school at the intersection of 19th and Albany which became their first territory in history. The Popes battled the black gangs but as white flight ran its course heading into the later 1950s this greaser club moved out of the neighborhood and moved into a mostly Italian neighborhood in southern West Town. After the Vice Lords were created in late 1958 then became really big in the neighborhood in 1959 it was time for the Popes to leave the area.
The Popes had completely left North Lawndale by 1959 and were now breaking into their new neighborhood at Chicago Avenue and Wood Street. The Popes soon discovered new greaser enemies like the C-Notes, Gaylords and Chi-West. The Popes became successful in this new section and by the mid-1960s they swelled deep in numbers and were now fighting the Hispanic gangs like Latin Kings, Harrison Gents and many more in the West Town area.
I’m not sure what happened to the Popes of West Town but in the late 1960s they branched out into two neighborhoods. One was the Irving Park neighborhood in Kilbourn Park and in the Mayfair section of this neighborhood. The other group branched into the Lincoln Square neighborhood at Lawrence and Rockwell, in this area many of those Popes were Greek and were often given the nickname as “Greek Popes.” The Popes that went to Mayfair were mostly Polish just like Chicago and Wood.
Kilbourn Park was short lived and by 1969 the Gaylords conquered that park but the Popes became much stronger in Mayfair as they became very strong in this neighborhood. Irving Park and Lawrence and Rockwell became legendary sections with some of the toughest greasers ever known in these areas. The popes had at last found their true areas and these neighborhoods would only be taken by gentrification in later years, but no other gangs could wipe them out of these sections.
The Popes also had a hang out at Oddo’s Pizza located at Irving Park Road and Kostner in the Irving Park neighborhood.
The Popes always had a vicious rivalry with the Gaylords since Popes came to West Town but the rivalry worsened when Gaylords moved to nearby Uptown and right in Lincoln Square in 1969 and soon legendary battles ensued. There were also pockets of Vice Lords in West Town and even near Lincoln Square this worsened the rivalry with the Popes. Popes had hated Vice Lords since 19th and Albany. When the Popes were in West Town, they developed a deep animosity toward the Latin Kings and the two gangs were still clashing as Latin Kings were pushing their way near Rockwell and Lawrence.
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, so they had to make up first. 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. This was also the time when Popes and Royals first became acquainted and this alliance was first started.
In 1973, Gaylords, C-Notes, Taylor Jousters and PVPs formed an alliance called the “United Five Organization” or “UFO” which was trouble for the Popes if war was to pop off due to the fact that the UFO roamed the north side streets in bands of 100+ members looking to smash on each other’s enemies. Almighty Popes and Simon City Royals formed their own alliance called the “Royal Pope Nation” to show their unity, and together they were a serious force to be reckoned with and together they outnumbered the Gaylords.
The Royal Pope nation was mainly credited to the new leader of the Popes Larry “Larkin” Morris who was only 17 years old in 1973. Morris’ younger brother “Lil Larkin” and some others were also co-founders of this alliance with the Simon City Royals. 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 newly revitalized Popes that formed after West Town and North Lawndale collapsed and these younger members from the late 60s were tougher than ever.
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 where they clashed with C-Notes and Gaylords. The Kolmar Park Popes would become legendary and had some of the toughest greasers known.
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 1974, Larkin inspired a south side group of Popes to form at Marzano’s Miami Bowl at 5023 S. Archer (Komensky and Archer Ave or 51st and Archer) Ave in the Archer Heights neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. Larkin visited the south side one day to go see his cousin Donnie Tenet near Vittum Park in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood. Larkin was confronted by a whole swarm of the Mad Lads street gang and beat up three of them in a fight one at a time, after that Larkin was legend around there, so his cousin Donnie decided they wanted to start their own gang which they called “Almighty Insane Royal Popes.” They added the “Royal” part to distinguish themselves from the north siders and took the colors of black and white instead of black and light blue. They also asked Larkin if they had permission and Larkin said it was ok and that was the birth of the South Side Popes.
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.
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 back into full scale war. Without Larkin’s leadership the Popes were in some disarray and many members flipped to becoming Simon City Royals while some other sets fell apart like the Logan Square 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.
In 1981, the South Side Popes joined up with the People Nation due to having different gang wars than the north siders. The north side Almighty Insane Popes’ biggest enemies were Latin Kings and Gaylords, while the south side Almighty Insane Royal Popes’ biggest enemies were the Two Sixs, Satan Disciples and Black Gangster Disciples. Sure the Royal Popes hated Latin Kings and Vice Lords too but not nearly as much as Two Six and the Disciple gangs. The north side Popes could no way join the People Nation especially since they hated Latin Kings so badly and now that the Gaylords had joined People it was a definite no no. The Royal Pope alliance would also be shattered if the north siders joined People, so the north siders joined the Folk Nation alongside the Royals. The south siders then dropped the “Royal” from their name and became the “Almighty Insane Popes” and joined the People Nation because they could not get along with BGDs, SDs and Two Six, so they would rather ally with Latin Kings. The “Almighty” remained in their name but now had a different meaning.
In 1980, a new leader emerged that took over all Pope sets on the north side and enforced Folk Nation bylaws and even had his popes throw up the pitchfork as their sign. This leader ruled throughout the 1980s and maintained many sections.
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. Now Pope no longer stood for Protection Of The People Eliminating Spics, now it stood for Protection Of The People Eliminating Scum. Regardless of the fact that Popes were taking in other races they still shrunk in size. Many 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.
It was also in the mid-1980s when the Lincoln Park neighborhood began to fight back against the Popes watching their every move causing the police to be on tail of Popes too. Many gang members were beaten up and thrown in jail by Chicago P.D.
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, 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.
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.
Please send in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s pics!
- What happened to Alpo? What year was he out of leadership?
- What is the timeline of leaders after Alpo up until the year 2000?
- Were there Popes on the south side in 50s and 60s? Was it in Bridgeport area? If so, what years were they there?