Imperial Chaplains

Founded Founded in or near Near West Side
Formerly known as

Imperial Chaplains early 1940s-early 1970s; Imperial Vice Lords 1971-1975; Imperial Insane Vice Lords 1975-present

Affiliations Give details
Colors Black, Red, and Gold
Color usage As Imperial Chaplains it is unknown, early 1970s to present black and gold, black and red 1978-present
Primary ethnicities African American
Symbols Give details
Status Inactive

The Imperial Chaplains history is greatly intertwined with Vice Lord history.  The story begins in the early 1940s when African Americans began to move into the “Jew Town” section of the Near West Side neighborhood in larger numbers.  For many years this area was referred to as the “Jewish Ghetto” and was the site the famous Maxwell Street Market.  When blacks arrived they were not welcomed by the Jewish community and the tensions developed quickly.  The tensions were the worst at the intersection of Maxwell Street and Halsted Street and up to Roosevelt Road at the spot of the Maxwell Street market that Jews heavily regarded as their area.  At some point in the early 1940s the tensions got so out of control that groups and black and white youths were fighting in the streets.  This neighborhood was well known for having prominent Italian and Jewish gangs decades prior and now they were fighting with scores of black youths that were fighting for their rights to live in Jew Town.

As the conflicts between Jewish and black youths escalated in Jew Town the black youths formed two street gangs to battle the Jewish gangs.  Forming these clubs was the only way to size up against the tough Jewish gangs and the black youths wanted to call upon all black youths in the area to join them in the fight, this was the prophecy.  The name “Imperial Chaplain” was likely chosen because a Chaplain by definition is a type of prophet that is attached to a religious group.  The Imperial Chaplains would serve as the prophets to spread the word to black youths moving into Jew Town to stand up and fight for their existence.  The other black gang to take form was the 14th Street Clovers that formed at 14th and Halsted just south of the Maxwell Street market.  At first the two gangs could work together to fight against a common cause, however, that didn’t last long before they began fighting each other as each group wanted to stand as one against the common enemy but neither group wanted to assimilate into the other.

The building of the Robert Brooks public housing projects brought many more blacks into the area and members of the Imperial Chaplains and 14th Street Clovers were the first gangs to take up residence in these buildings.  Extensions were built onto the Jane Addams projects in 1943 that were built for blacks and this is when Clovers and Chaplains were moving in these buildings.

In the year 1948, members of the Imperial Chaplains and 14th Street Clovers moved to the North Lawndale neighborhood as many Jewish residents moved out of the area.  North Lawndale was both welcoming and spiteful of blacks moving into this neighborhood and once again friction popped off between blacks and Jews.  North Lawndale was ideal for black families as their was an abundance of rental properties, because blacks were often barred from purchasing property in this community.  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.

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

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.”

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.

By 1957, the Chicago police had identified and targeted the Chaplains and Clovers and began arresting several members of many gangs in the neighborhood and the Chaplains were the angriest.  Many of the boys were taken to the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles to serve out sentences.  It was in this facility where Edwin Perry got together with 6 members of the Imperial Chaplains to create the Vice Lords.  In 1958 when the Vice Lords hit the streets of North Lawndale they aggressively attempted a complete takeover of the whole North Lawndale neighborhood, rivals like the Imperial Chaplains stood in their way.  The Vice Lords spawned out of the Chaplains in 1957 and were basically born out of them, then once they hit the streets of North Lawndale in 1958, the Vice Lords also absorbed many of the 14th Street Clovers including one of their top members Bobby Gore in 1958.

The Chaplains continued to fight Cobras, Clovers and Vice Lords but it was a losing battle against the Vice Lords by the early 1960s and the gang began to shrink in size.

In the year 1971 the Imperial Chaplains at last fully assimilated with the Vice Lords and became a branch known as “Imperial Vice Lords.” The Imperial Vice Lords landed in the Austin neighborhood at Chicago Avenue and Austin Avenue in 1971.  In this community the Imperial Vice Lords met another Vice Lord branch led by Bennie Lee called the “Insane Vice Lords” from Madison Street and Cicero Avenue and the two branches became close.  In the year 1975 the leader of the Insane Vice Lords Bennie Lee was incarcerated and leadership of the Imperial Vice Lords was also no longer existent, it was at this point that both IVL gangs came together to form the “Imperial Insane Vice Lords,” and there was a new leader of this Vice Lord group Sidney “Don Sid” “Prince Symphony Sid” “Prince Shy Ku Auton” Hughes that led the organization and personally oversaw all operations in the Grace Abbott IIVL buildings until 1982 when he was convicted of rape charges.  Afterward Mathew “DJ” Williams took over as the leader of all operations for 20 years.  Under Williams’ leadership the IIVLs grew incredibly on the west side of Chicago mainly in Austin neighborhood and the public housing projects on the west side.  Williams also opted to allow all races into the organization in 1985 when the Vice Lord nation bestowed that option on all branches.  The IIVLs opened operations in the north side neighborhoods of Uptown and Albany Park in the 1980s and 1990s.  The IIVLs also opened on the south side at 71st and Jeffery in the South Shore neighborhood and they also opened in the suburbs of Elgin and Joliet.

The Imperial Insane Vice Lords still operate in large numbers presently; therefore, the spirit of the Imperial Chaplains is still alive with the IIVL organization.  This is the story of how IIVLs became so strong in the Henry Horner projects and the entire ABLA housing projects, because they were rooted in these buildings as Imperial Chaplains as far back as the 1943.  The Vice Lords ended up having a strong presence in Cabrini Green for the same reason, once the high rises were built the Chaplains moved in.

Please send in 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s pics!


  1. Who was the founder of the Chaplains and what happened to him?
  2. Who were the Chaplain leaders from the 40s to the early 1970s and what years were they in charge?
  3. Who was the first Imperial Vice Lord leader and what happened to him?
  4. What year did the north side sections open?
  5. What year did 71st and Jeffery open?
  6. What year did Elgin open?
  7. What year did Joliet open?