|Founded||Founded in 1962 by Horace Willis in or near East Garfield Park Near West Side|
Founded near Madison and California.
|Formerly known as||
Black Souls 1962-early 1970s; Black Soul Brothers early 1970s – 1975; Gangster Black Souls 1975-present; Mad Black Souls 440+ 1975-present; New Life Black Souls ?-present; Impressionist Black Souls ?-present
|Colors||Black and White|
|Primary ethnicities||African American|
|Symbols||Winged Heart, 4 Point Star, and Black Diamond|
Heart with wings-gangster Black Souls, 440, 4 point star, black diamond-Mad Black Souls
The Black Souls started in 1962 in the Near West Side neighborhood at the old roller rink at 2550 West Madison Street (Madison and Rockwell) as a roller skating group. The organization was founded by Horace “King Pee Wee” Willis. Horace Willis and the earliest Black Souls were roller skaters that often skated in the James Brown style (JB Style) skating that became very popular in Chicago in the 1960s. I am not sure of all the details but King Pee Wee was a musician of some sort as well and was said to be the one that introduced the downbeat to the west side of Chicago. The Black Souls were not formed for the purposes of gang banging, they were a group of friends that hung out on the west side that loved music and skate dancing that got into some trouble at times. There was no drug selling or shootings the Souls were into, they just hung out and were really into music. The Souls would hang out down the street from the rink at the intersection of Madison and California in the East Garfield Park neighborhood so you can also say that is where it all started too.
Another part of the history was the creation of the Soul Brothers that started in East Garfield Park around Homan and Madison in about the same year.
Another interesting fact is that Horace Willis had a childhood friend from the neighborhood by the name of Hector “Pancho” Sanchez. In 1962, Pancho moved out of the neighborhood as several Puerto Rican people began leaving East Garfield Park but the boys remained friends and as Willis created the Black Souls in 1962 Hector created the “Latin Souls” in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. This is the story of how Black Souls and Latin Souls have a long standing unity.
The Black Souls became quite popular in the 1960s and this caught the attention of David Barksdale and the Black Disciples from the south side. The Black Disciples campaigned all over the city from south side to west side to north side taking in many organizations into their alliance starting in 1966. Sometime between 1966 and 1968 the Souls joined the Black Disciple alliance but were mostly left out on their own since they were on the west side and the rest of the Disciples were south side. The Black Souls never represented their Disciple affiliation because of this reason.
By the late 1960s there were about 80 members of the Black Souls and they now had established a section at Adams and Pulaski in the West Garfield Park neighborhood and they frequented a playlot that used to exist at this intersection. In these years the Black Souls met the Latin Kings for the first time as Latin Kings came through this area. The confrontation was peaceful and for this one day Black Souls and Latin Kings hung out briefly at this park.
In the year 1970 tragedy came to the Black Souls that scarred this organization forever and changed the group. Horace Willis was attempting to rob a store and when the Chicago police arrived they shot Willis over 30 times in his back even though Willis had not hurt anyone in the robbery. The killing was a senseless slaughter and there was no reason to shoot him over 30 times, therefore, his death was considered a homicide and his mother sued the police department and won. The officers that killed him were never convicted to my knowledge. After the death of Horace Willis the Black Souls went into a different direction.
The Black Souls were enraged over King Pee Wee’s death. The nature of the killing caused further rage how a man was shot 30 times with his back turned. The Souls then changed their name to the “Mad Black Souls” to possibly honor King Pee Wee and to signify their outrage.
After King Pee Wee was killed Wayne “Jack Bobo” Edwards took control of the organization. Some of the Souls united with the Four Corner Hustlers in East Garfield Park at around Madison and Homan. This was also the time when Black Souls merged with the Soul Brothers to create the “Mad Black Soul Brothers” and this is how this organization first took over Fifth City. The Black Soul Brothers name did not last long before they became just the Black Souls or went by just “Mad Black Souls.” The Four Corner Hustlers were not big time dealers at that time but could provide muscle to help protect Black Soul operations there, and both gangs were rivals with the Vice Lords back in the 1970s. These Black Souls became “Mad Black Souls” and the “440+” concept was developed.
After Horace Willis’ death in 1970, the Souls then spread their influence into the southern part of the West Humboldt Park neighborhood at the same time that the Supreme Gangsters arrived and vicious gang rivalry ensued.
Jack Bobo was a former member of the Supreme Gangsters and kept his beliefs in making money that came from being Supreme Gangster or BGD. At some point he flipped to become a Black Soul and after Pee Wee’s death in 1970 Bobo took over control and as he did he introduced “Gangster Black Soul” concepts in 1976. Bobs set up business with the Supreme Gangsters in 1976 and the Souls became a money making organization especially tapping into the west side heroin trade. Jack Bobo was really close with Larry Hoover before Larry was incarcerated so this allowed business to happen. They would eventually evolve into a complex syndicate that would have one of the most complex drug distribution networks in the city. I’m not sure exactly when the Soul Brothers and Black Souls merged but I think it happened in 1976 when Jack Bobo took over.
Because of the alliance with BGDs the Black Souls technically joined the Folk alliance in April 1978 in Statesville prison. This was a very reluctant decision because their close allies the Four Corner Hustlers joined the People alliance. The deciding factor was that Souls were allies with BGD and they were in a vicious war with most of the Vice Lord organization. Now, when it comes to the streets the Folk affiliation was not honored as much, more so in the 1980s but by the 1990s Souls on the streets claimed independent and still do today.
On December 9, 1983 the Black Souls murdered a Vice Lord chief by the name of Jerome Wells. According to court documents Black Soul members were infuriated over the death of Black Soul member Tom Slick and now they wanted revenge. According to court documents about 8 or 9 members of the Black Souls met at gang member Eddie Wood’s apartment that was located somewhere on Van Buren Street. Woods had a whole lot of guns in his apartment and was able to pass them out; he was also able to test one of the shotguns out in the hallway, which shows that obviously residents were not bothered by gunshots in the building. The Black Souls marked Vice Lord Chief Jerome Wells for death, and Wells lived right across a vacant lot in an apartment building next door, this is also the building where Black Soul member Larry Gross’ mother lived. The plan was for four teams of two gang members each to go across the open lot and into the nearby building and into Larry Gross’ mom’s apartment and drink beer until the lookout told them Wells was coming. Later on they made it the building and Wells came home to his 7th floor apartment, he was then ambushed by Black Souls and shot several times. Larry Gross, Eddie Woods, John Mahogany and Willie Atkins were all charged with murder (People vs. Atkins). This murder showed that the Black Souls would retaliate heavily if a rival gang would kill one of their own.
Sometime in about the mid-1980s or perhaps a little later, the Black Souls ventured into the North Lawndale neighborhood and came across a gang that dominated 16th and Pulaski to 16th and 16th and Harding. This section was known as the “Black Outlaw Soul Brothers” which was a section that viciously fought against the Vice Lords. The Outlaw Soul Brothers guarded their territory tightly and expected rival Vice Lords to comply. On the night of January 22, 1984 Vice Lord gang members Keith “Chip” Jordan had become a victim of a brutal gang beating from the Outlaw Soul Brothers. According to court documents Keith Jordan was walking alone through Soul Brother territory at 16th and Harding when Soul Brother gang members Kenneth “Keno” Anderson, “Zel,” and Larry Glasco flashed gang signs at Jordan and screamed out “Folks poppin, People droppin!” A series of hand signs were exchanged as Soul Brothers threw down the Vice Lords, then the three Soul Brothers chased Jordan who slipped and fell, Zel and Glasco proceeded to beat Jordan with a pipe and a large wooden stick, then Keno jumped in to attack Jordan. The only reason the men stopped was because a female witness began screaming, then they wanted to go after her when she tried to help Jordan but she managed to run away and call police. According to court documents Jordan died later of severe head trauma and Zel and Glasco were not convicted by Kenneth “Keno” Anderson was convicted (People vs. Anderson, 1987).
Sam Mckay became a leader of the Gangster Black Souls, while Wayne Edwards still had a lot of power in the organization. Sam Mckay was the leader of the Souls in the 1980s and 1990s until he was put in prison in 1992, which is when Wayne Edwards controlled all street operations.
Sam Mckay was definitely in charge of the Black Souls by 1987 at the latest. On November 13, 1987 according to court documents in the case of People vs. Murray, Sam Mckay ordered the deaths of Brian Fowler and DeJuan Buck. Fowler and Buck were selling drugs near the intersection of Fulton and Kedzie in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. The Black Souls were running a major drug house at address 3233 West Fulton which was right at that intersection and these young drug dealers were infringing on Mckay’s turf according to court documents. Mckay got together with Kevin Murray, “Jet,” “Paris” and Tyrone Washington to plan out the murder and Jet brought in a gym bag with two Uzi machine guns. Mckay said the two must die according to court documents. Kevin Murray then became the driver and escorted Jet and Washington to go out looking for the two dealers, eventually they spotted the two dealers then Jet and Washington got out of the car and shot the two dealers dead in a back alley by 3300 West Fulton, they then got in the car driven by Murray who served as the getaway driver and was also said to be Sam Mckay’s personal driver according to court documents. Kevin Murray also was a drug dealer in the Black Souls that moved drugs under Mckay according to court documents. Murray and Washington were charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison, for some reason Sam Mckay was never brought up on charges in this case (People vs. Murray, 1993).
The Black Souls were very serious about their drug turf from the start and this was apparent in the November 13, 1987 murder of two rival drug dealers. Another example of the Black Souls flexing their muscles in East Garfield Park came on the night of August 4, 1990 at the intersection of Adams and Francisco. At this intersection is a two story apartment building, John “Screwball” Barnes was running a crack cocaine operation on the second floor of the building that was rented by his tenants Claude “Blood” Benson, “J.C.” and Floyd Spencer. Screwball supplied the drugs and brought it the building and would give the drugs to Carol Ramsey who would then give the drugs to Charles Williams who sold the drugs in the apartment while Benson collected the money and brought the proceeds back to the Black Souls which Benson was a member of according to court documents. Carol Ramsey lived in the building on the first floor with a Gangster Disciple gang member named Reginald Jett. Drug users were able to stay inside the building and smoke their crack, which meant this place was a “smokehouse.” This crack house was jointly operated by members of the Black Souls and the Gangster Disciples, I am not sure if Screwball was a member of either gang. On the night of August 4th Claude Benson argued with Carol Ramsey that Screwball owed the Black Souls money and because of this the drug operation had to cease activity or the building would be burned down, when Screwball allegedly refused according to court documents, a Gangster Disciple gang member and Jeffery Todd Wilson, a Black Soul gang member, then doused the place in gasoline then lit it on fire while they yelled for everyone to get out, then there were two explosions as the building blew up, the men were paid $200 to light the fire according to court documents. Two men died in the blast, Floyd Spencer and Lee Burnett, Wilson was charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison (People vs. Wilson, 1998).
The Black Souls kept a smooth operation throughout the 1970s and 1980s not gaining much publicity, in fact, up until the 1990s the Black Souls were thought of as a Black Gangster Disciple faction and nothing more especially since they had such tight relations with GDs on the west side and south side. The Souls set up shop all over West Garfield Park and Greater Grand Crossing communities eventually. They opened up in the Rockwell Gardens housing projects in the Near West Side neighborhood. The Souls also opened territory in the ABLA Housing projects in the Near West Side neighborhood and immediately had vicious gang wars with the New Breeds.
By the 1990s the Black Souls had two other factions that I do not know the history of, New Life Black Souls and Impressionist Black Souls. New Life Black Souls are allied with the New Life Breeds at 16th and Kostner in North Lawndale and in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.
By the 1990s the Black Souls were being targeted by law enforcement for selling millions of dollars’ worth of drugs in the streets. The Souls were a major threat because of their complex drug trade and their propensity for violence if their drug turf was to be infringed on. In some areas Gangster Disciples and Souls are allies, while in other areas they are at war. In some areas the Black Souls are all good with the Four Corner Hustlers and Traveling Vice Lords and in other areas they are at war. The Souls are at war with some other Vice Lord factions and others they are not. The Souls have had legendary wars with the New Breeds and Vice Lords but in other parts of the city they are business partners. The Souls do not need to ally with Folk or People. The Souls operate like a chameleon, they adopt to their surroundings to get what they need and survive and this is how they have grown over the years and even opened up in the suburbs and other states, while multiplying into the thousands.
Please send in some 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s pics!
- What year did the Souls open West Garfield Park sections?
- What year did the Souls open North Lawndale sections?
- What happened to Frank Davis?
- What exact year did the merger happen with the Soul Brothers?
- What is the year the New Life Black Souls started?
- What year were the Impressionist Black Souls started and what is their story?