The Gallows and the Deep
Like many a convict before him, James Horace Alderman came to Jesus in a jail cell. His conversion to Christianity, and not some native taste for melodrama, explains why the 46-year-old smuggler asked to wear a red rose to the gallows and be buried in white. The rose was an obscure reference to his religious awakening. White burial clothes were the custom of an evangelical church he joined while awaiting execution.
More than the red rose or the white funeral garb, Alderman's last meal is a telling gesture: four strips of bacon, two poached eggs, bread and coffee -- a resolutely simple meal chosen by a man who made his living as an Everglades fishing guide and Gulf Coast pool-hall proprietor before turning to a life of crime. Of course the fact that Alderman could eat at all hints at preternatural animal health or a fanatical commitment to bravado, or both.
After he ate Alderman was taken by elevator from the third floor of the Broward County jail to a van waiting on the street. Six carloads of armed men escorted him east down Las Olas Boulevard and then south to a metal seaplane hangar at Bahia Mar. And there, at 6:04 a.m., Alderman was quietly hanged -- the first and possibly the last person ever officially put to death in Broward County and the only execution ever carried out by the federal government in its continuing war against smuggling.
"Neck Broken By Noose, It Is Reported" was the headline in the next day's Miami Herald.
Like much of what has been written about Alderman since his death, the newspaper headline was misleading. Alderman's neck was not, in fact, broken by the noose. The execution was botched. Alderman kicked and strangled for a full twelve minutes before being pronounced dead by a local doctor. But the public was left in the dark.
One reason was a federal judge's order that said the killing must be carried out in secret. Seven weeks before Alderman's death, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Halsted Ritter commanded that the "United States marshal shall not permit to be present at the time of the execution any newspaper reporters, nor any photographers nor cameramen, and only permit to be present a physician, a spiritual adviser as may be requested by the prisoner, and the necessary assistants."
He added that "neither said marshal nor any person present shall make any statement or give any report whatsoever of the hanging or any matter connected therewith."
Another reason the public was left in the dark was a conspiracy of newspaper executives. Despite Judge Ritter's media blackout, a Miami Herald reporter named Edgar Lee Hay managed to attend the hanging disguised as an undertaker's assistant. After watching the execution, Hay wrote an eyewitness account. Then, according to both Hay and his editor, the story was killed by the Herald's publisher, who had been a classmate of Judge Ritter's at DePauw University.
The deception was compounded by the fact that Hay met in secret with a Jacksonville-based Associated Press reporter immediately after leaving the scene of Alderman's death. After recounting the horrific details of the execution, Hay learned that his comrade's bosses also had suffered a change of heart and decided to suppress the story.
An accurate depiction of Horace Alderman's death might have changed public opinion about capital punishment. It might have badly damaged Fort Lauderdale's sunny image. Or it might have strengthened existing local animosity toward the federal government. But the mishandling of the execution itself, and the subsequent cover-up, was only one thread in a dark tapestry of legal error, reportorial distortions, and official misconduct.
For years hundreds of pages of documents housed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, have waited to tell a different story about Alderman than the one purveyed by newspaper and magazine accounts of his trial and death and by later popularizers of local legend.
The origins of the fictional, mythical Alderman -- and the beginnings of any salvageable truth about him -- lie in those archives, and also at a spot in the Gulf Stream 34 miles east-southeast of Fort Lauderdale, 25i42
If you don't recall the hundreds of near-riotous Alderman sympathizers who gathered at Bahia Mar for the hanging, or the way machine-gun toting federal agents strung concertina wire around the seaplane hangar to protect themselves from the crowd, it's because Alderman's arrest occurred 70 years ago this summer.
The war in which Alderman became a central figure wasn't the one aimed at South American cocaine kingpins. It was the one that began on January 17, 1920, when the National Prohibition Act went into effect. At the time authorities expected few violations of the new law. But over the next fourteen years, Prohibition corrupted all levels of society, swamped the judiciary, killed thousands of people, and gave rise to underworld syndicates that still exist.
It also made the Coast Guard, which most people hadn't thought of as an enforcement arm of the government, a major presence along America's seaboards. By 1927 Coast Guard Base 6 in Fort Lauderdale was ground zero in a war for which public support was rapidly eroding.
In the early Twenties, colorful entrepreneurs like Capt. William McCoy ran contraband liquor in schooners from Canada to the United States and sold it to party boaters just outside the three-mile territorial limit. (Unlike other smugglers McCoy never watered down his booze, giving rise to the term "the real McCoy.") But by 1927 McCoy had sold his ships and retired to Florida; the smuggling business had been overrun by hijackers and organized into sophisticated criminal networks; Congress had pushed the territorial limit out to twelve miles; and the Bahamas had surpassed all other nations as the favorite loading-up spot for smugglers. In 1917 the Bahamian capital of Nassau sold 50,000 quarts of liquor; in 1922 the figure jumped to 10 million.
South Florida's rum smugglers outran the Coast Guard in high-speed boats powered by converted WWI aircraft engines, precursors to the modern Cigarette boat. Underfunded and ill-trained, Coast Guardsmen were by turns trigger-happy, corrupt, or angry with their own government for forcing them to make interdiction their unpopular top priority.
At that time South Florida onshore looked strikingly similar to its present-day incarnation, awash as it was with undercover federal agents, high-priced defense lawyers, professional snitches, clandestine drop-zones, and a host of corrupted judges, hypocritical politicians and cops playing both sides of the illicit economy.
On January 27, 1927, the Associated Press had this to report:
Every prohibition enforcement agency of the United States government cooperated here this morning in simultaneous raids [that] left Broward County virtually without local law enforcement and at noon gave promise, officers said, of uncovering one of the biggest liquor conspiracies and supply bases in the country.
Sheriff Paul C. Bryan, his whole staff of deputies, and six policemen were among the first to be arrested. Bert Croft, assistant chief of police, was arrested soon afterward.
By the time Horace Alderman appeared on the scene, public animosity toward the government's liquor war was approaching its zenith.
"Life for a Coast Guardsman at some bases became unbearable," notes Coast Guard historian Cmdr. A.L. Lonsdale. "If they left the base, they might be arrested by local police for spitting, loitering, or creating a public disturbance if they talked audibly."
In Broward County the 1926 hurricane demolished a local economy based on tourism and real estate and ushered in the Great Depression three years earlier than elsewhere. Some of the newly impoverished locals turned to smuggling for survival. Many business leaders thought the rebirth of tourism was their only chance for economic salvation -- and tourists wanted liquor.
As if relations between local and federal authorities weren't poisonous enough, the Coast Guard in three separate incidents shot to death three of South Florida's best-known contrabandists, Charlie Waite, Ermon Jones, and Red Shannon. Shannon was killed two months before the 1926 hurricane, following a high-speed boat chase in front of the ritzy Flamingo Hotel off Miami Beach. Shocked spectators at a regatta looked on.
The killings led local authorities to indict nine Coast Guardsmen for murder. U.S. District Attorney W. M. Gober, who was building a career as a brass-knuckles prosecutor, was now cast in the unusual role of defense attorney to the accused feds. Months dragged on without a trial date while state prosecutors accused Gober of stonewalling.
G. Harold Martin, a trial lawyer and Fort Lauderdale city judge in the Roaring Twenties, is a lifelong teetotaler. But most people in Prohibition-era Broward County weren't, he recalls.
"Liquor? The church people were against it, that was about it," Martin says. "The sheriff's deputies would go around and collect money from the bootleggers and turn it over to the politicians, and the politicians made sure the bootleggers stayed out of jail. Simple as that.
"Sure it was corrupt. But the only thing we had to sell down here was recreation, and liquor was an important part of it."
Martin, who was born in 1900, says he can't remember who became the biggest celebrity smuggler after the shooting deaths of Shannon, Jones, and Waite. "Not because it was so long ago, but because there were just so many of them."
Cmdr. Beckwith Jordan, chief of Fort Lauderdale's Base 6, writes in a memorandum to the commandant of the Coast Guard, trying to describe the indescribable mess he encountered at 3:10 p.m. on the afternoon of August 7, 1927. Jordan had pulled alongside patrol boat 249 in the Gulf Stream:
An estimate of the situation found that Boatswain S[idney] C. Sanderlin had been shot and killed instantly; that Secret Service agent Robert K. Webster had been shot and killed; that Victor A. Lamby, Motor Machinist's Mate First Class, had been seriously wounded, which later proved to be fatal; and that Jodie L. Hollingsworth, Seaman Second Class, had been seriously wounded.
The patrol boat lay drifting and in a helpless condition, with the distress flag flying at the masthead and the rum boat tied astern. The two prisoners, Horace Alderman and Robert Weech, were secured by lines and handcuffs to the one-pounder mount, Alderman being in a semiconscious [state], having been battered and stabbed.
Had he been more inclined toward clinical description or purple prose, Jordan might have written that Sanderlin, the patrol boat's commanding officer, had left some of the contents of his chest cavity inside the pilothouse, which now looked more like a slaughterhouse; that Webster, the Secret Service agent, had a ragged hole blown through his torso; that the boat's acting cook, Hollingsworth, though intermittently conscious, was missing not only his right eye, but most of the right side of his face; that the ship's chief engineer, Lamby, was covered with blood and paralyzed from a .45 slug lodged next to his spine.
Jordan might also have noted that the man named Weech was bruised and covered with blood; and that the man named Horace Alderman showed every sign of having been stabbed half a dozen times with an ice pick, repeatedly kicked in the ribs, and beaten in the head with a pistol butt, a dinghy oar, a two-foot-long steel barnacle-scraper, and more than one fist.
The deck of the 75-foot patrol boat was smeared with blood. So was the cockpit of the 30-foot motorboat tethered behind her. The cockpit of the smaller boat also contained twenty and a half cases of contraband liquor, some of the bottles broken open to reveal the odor of cut-rate Scotch.
Instead of taking notes, Jordan made arrangements to get the dead, the half-dead, and the four comparatively uninjured members of the crew back to land and to start figuring out what had happened.
At 7 p.m., less than four hours later, Jordan convened a board of investigation at the Bahia Mar Coast Guard base.
At first things seemed to come into focus. The story that emerged was "the most dramatic sea fight in the history of the service," one Coast Guard officer later remarked -- an episode rivaling Joseph Conrad's goriest yarns.
The surviving Coast Guard witnesses gave the following account:
Horace Alderman and Robert Weech were coming back from Bimini with a load of liquor. Around 1:30 p.m. the patrol spotted their boat. From a distance of half a mile, Sidney Sanderlin shot three rounds of tracer fire from a Springfield rifle across Alderman's bow. The motorboat hove to, and CG 249 pulled alongside.
Sanderlin, the Coast Guard commander, hopped down onto Alderman's boat, pulled open a hatch, and discovered the contraband liquor. He ordered part of his crew to start loading it aboard the 249. Then he escorted Alderman to the pilothouse of the patrol vessel and radioed Fort Lauderdale for instructions.
At this point, the Coast Guardsmen said, Alderman produced a .45 automatic and shot Sanderlin in the back. Next he shot the second-in-command, Lamby, who managed to fall down the engine-room hatch and lay paralyzed for the duration of the affair.
Alderman was suddenly in control of the whole situation, because, astonishingly, none of the government crew was armed.
Next, the Coast Guardsmen claimed, Alderman ordered the liquor loaded back on his boat. Then he ordered the remaining six men to the stern of his own vessel. At this point he supposedly announced he would burn the Coast Guard boat and shoot all the men.
Virtually all the survivors said they remember Alderman making an odd comment. Johnny Robinson remembers: "He said that he was not Charlie Waite or Red Shannon nor any of his kinfolk, and that he had taken enough off the Coast Guard."
The young Coast Guardsmen claimed that Alderman then instructed his accomplice, Weech, to break open the gas lines in the engine room of the 249, fill the bilges with fuel, and set the patrol boat alight. Two problems arose: No one could find any matches, and neither Alderman nor Weech could get their own boat engine started.
As the inquest continued the next morning, the tale grew even more amazing. The Coast Guard survivors claimed that Alderman held his gun on the crew while Weech tinkered with the motor. Then when Alderman glanced down into the engine room, momentarily distracted, Secret Service agent Webster rushed him, and the five other men followed suit. In the melee, Webster was shot through the chest and killed; Hollingsworth got a bullet through the face and proceeded to fall in the water (attracting, one witness said, a school of sharks.)
The rest of the men overpowered Alderman and Weech, beat them senseless, and either tied or chained them to the deck of the Coast Guard boat.
But there were some unanswered questions. Where did Alderman get the gun he used to take control of the patrol boat? Why had the commanding officer of CG 249 decided to stop Alderman in the first place? Daytime search-and-seizures were rare, and the incident occurred far outside U.S. waters, where Coast Guard jurisdiction was a controversial matter. What was a Secret Service agent doing on the boat? Why were the Coast Guardsmen unarmed? And if Alderman's plan was simply to kill the entire crew, why hadn't he done so when he had the chance? Why had he waited?
According to the official record of the inquiry, Weech was interviewed at considerable length in jail on August 8 by a Coast Guard yeoman named William T. Coatee. The statement from Weech has mysteriously vanished from the archive file. What remains is a brief secondhand paraphrasing of his claims.
According to Coatee, Weech said he and Alderman had been thoroughly searched for weapons. Then Weech offered an odd explanation of how Alderman got a pistol in his hand: As Alderman followed Sanderlin aboard the Coast Guard cruiser, he darted back into the cabin of the motorboat, groped around in the engine compartment, and found his own .45 automatic -- all without seven other spectators, or Sanderlin himself, noticing.
In contrast, surviving crew members Frank Lehman, Robinson, and Hal Caudle made no mention of their commanding officer having searched the smugglers -- and, remarkably, neither Jordan nor other members of the board of inquiry ever asked them about it.
Injured crew members Lamby and Hollingsworth were interviewed in the hospital, where they signed brief written statements. (Hollingsworth made a dramatic recovery; Lamby died of complications from surgery on August 11, four days later). Neither man's statement mentions a search.
Only Frank Tuten claimed that his commander, Sanderlin, had conducted a "hurried" frisking. But Tuten made no mention of Alderman returning to the motorboat to retrieve a gun. Decades later, in a 1968 letter to the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, one of Tuten's fellow Coast Guardsmen called him totally untrustworthy. "I can see how distortions of this kind can happen when Frank Tuten, who was there, gave such an inaccurate account of what actually happened," wrote Lehman. In another piece of writing, in 1976, Lehman described himself and his fellow crew members as utterly untrained teenage adventurists, adding: "It is evident that we were lax in handling this situation, or it would not have happened at all."
And yet, despite the murkiness surrounding the search and seizure, the commander of Base 6 concluded that "the prisoners were searched, and after the search Alderman possessed himself of a gun [that] he had hidden in the engine room of the rum boat." His official opinion: Alderman was guilty of murder and piracy on the high seas.
By his own admission, Jordan allowed the Coast Guard inquest to proceed in a manner that today might have gotten him court-martialed.
Instead of separating and sequestering the witnesses, he permitted them to stand on a porch outside the hearing room, smoking cigarettes and comparing notes. He also allowed servicemen from Base 6 who had no direct involvement in the incident to watch the inquest as spectators. "The board determined upon its procedure and decided to sit with open doors," Jordan noted.
Jordan's board of inquiry made an inventory of physical evidence in the case, right down to Sanderlin's cuff links and talcum powder, and a conch shell owned by Hollingsworth. But the most important piece of physical evidence -- Alderman's boat, with the contraband whiskey aboard -- never made it back to land. Jordan professed ignorance of what had happened to it. Others testified later that the boat caught fire and sank while being towed back to Fort Lauderdale.
Subsequent court testimony also revealed that patrol boat 249 was not exactly on routine patrol the morning of August 7. The crew was acting as transport for Secret Service agent Webster, who was on his way to Bimini to investigate the circulation of counterfeit $50 notes among booze smugglers.
The relaxed transportation duty explained why crew members wore T-shirts and dungarees instead of their Coast Guard uniforms. In an account written 49 years after the incident, crew member Caudle revealed that the patrol boat stopped Alderman on the high seas mainly because its commanding officer wanted to treat the out-of-town Secret Service agent to a taste of South Florida intrigue.
Perhaps most significant of all its omissions at Base 6 is the board of inquiry's failure to interview the central character in the drama, Alderman himself. No explanation was given as to why.
Upon reaching land Horace Alderman had been taken to the hospital under heavy guard. The next day he was moved again. "In view of the existing feeling among the rumrunners, and of the fact that several had attempted to gain admittance to the hospital, Alderman was removed to the county jail, all the necessary precautions being taken against any sympathizers," Jordan wrote.
The precautions apparently weren't enough for the Coast Guard. Alderman was placed aboard a government gunboat on the New River and taken by convoy to Jacksonville, where he was held in solitary confinement.
It was nearly half a year later, when he went to trial in January 1928, that Alderman got to tell his side of the story. By then Weech had turned state's evidence against Alderman before a grand jury in Jacksonville. In return for his testimony against Alderman, Weech received a light sentence -- one year in the federal penitentiary -- and vanished before Alderman's hanging.
Weech, the linchpin in Alderman's indictment, remained a shadow player. His grand jury testimony was first sealed, then destroyed by the court decades ago.
Alderman acknowledged he was a killer but denied to his dying day that he was a murderer. Speaking in what was described as a clear, strong voice in a federal courtroom in Miami, he told a rather different version of the high seas bloodbath: In the first minutes of the encounter off Fort Lauderdale, he thought his contraband cargo was being hijacked by rival smugglers. The crew members of CG 249 weren't dressed like Coast Guardsmen, and Alderman said the Coast Guard vessel wasn't readily identifiable as such. Likewise Sanderlin didn't identify himself as a government agent.
When he realized he was being arrested, Alderman said, he really got scared. The recent Coast Guard killings of rumrunners Shannon, Waite, and Jones hovered in the forefront of his mind.
"After getting on the Coast Guard boat, he told me to go into the pilothouse," Alderman testified. "I obeyed orders. Lamby come in the door on the opposite or left-hand side. Sanderlin says, 'Now, damn you. I got you. I'm going to fix you just the same as the rest of the rumrunners, put you right with them. Red Shannon was killed with his hands in the air, with a bullet in the back of the head, and Charlie Waite, too. We're going to put you with them."
The reason none of the Coast Guardsmen were armed is that they had left their pistols -- four in all -- lying on a chart table in the pilothouse. Alderman, Sanderlin, and Lamby were now standing in front of the chart table.
"Lamby made a grab for one of the guns, and when he did, I grabbed at the same time," Alderman told a packed courtroom. "I got a gun and shot him in the breast. When I shot him, I jumped back. That put me just outside the door of the pilothouse. Sanderlin whirled to grab a gun, and I shot him in the back.
"I whirled right around outside the door and put the gun on the rest of the Coast Guard -- the rest of the boys that were on the deck of the Coast Guard boat. If I had not shot Lamby when I did, he would have shot me."
Alderman's plan: "I was going to bring them to Miami, turn them over to the authorities -- the sheriff or the city police department. I was going to throw the liquor overboard before I got in. I was going to give myself up."
He never got the chance because, despite his warnings, Webster and the crew rushed him.
Alderman fervently denied ever telling Weech to set the Coast Guard patrol boat on fire and gave his opinion that the Coast Guardsmen had themselves severed the gas lines in the engine room. Why? To assure Alderman's infamy, and cover up the fact that their commanding officer had gotten nearly half his crew killed through his own murderous threats and unsafe official procedures.
By now the press had dubbed Alderman "the Gulf Stream Pirate," and daily newspaper stories painted him as the worst bad-man ever to walk the coast of Florida. An off-the-cuff comment by Frank Tuten led to a spate of stories claiming that Alderman had planned to make his Coast Guard captives "walk the plank." The stories came complete with garish illustrations of Alderman as Blackbeard, wreaking carnage on the high seas.
Throughout the trial the all-male jury was kept incommunicado when not in the courtroom, and guarded after sundown by U.S. marshals against the possibility of bribery or worse. But, as prosecutors acknowledged, the twelve jurors spent their evenings devouring the hyperbolic news coverage of the trial. Alderman's defense lawyer, R.A. Hendricks, protested to no avail.
While he may or not have been as bloodthirsty as Blackbeard, Alderman was certainly no angel, and the trial judge allowed jurors to hear from prosecutors all about Alderman's prior convictions for smuggling, poaching, and grand larceny.
By night jurors read newspaper stories filled with hearsay masquerading as fact: The prior grand larceny charge, one reporter stated, had occurred when Alderman beat a Miccosukee medicine man nearly to death on a Gulf Coast beach and stole $500. The smuggling charge supposedly related to an episode in which Alderman had dumped a dozen Chinese immigrants overboard en route back from Cuba, and then machine-gunned them to death.
Though Alderman was under indictment for murdering Sanderlin and Lamby -- but not Webster, the Secret Service agent -- the jury heard more than 30 witnesses led by four federal prosecutors, including the assistant attorney general of the United States, testify about the killing of Webster and wounding of Hollingsworth in the melee aboard Alderman's boat.
Meanwhile U.S. District Judge Henry D. Clayton suppressed any mention of the recent Coast Guard killings of Waite, Shannon, and Jones, despite their importance in the defense explanation of Alderman's motive and his claim of justifiable homicide committed in self-defense.
Even by the standards of the Twenties, Clayton's legal miscues seemed to promise a mistrial or an appellate victory. But Alderman lost on appeal; the Supreme Court refused to hear the case; and finally Pres. Calvin Coolidge declined to commute the death sentence or to stay the execution.
"If ever a case in the history of criminal jurisprudence merited -- even demanded -- the death penalty, this is the case," thundered the U.S. attorney. "I can't conceive why, while that deck was slippery with the blood of their shipmates slain by this man, those Coast Guardsmen didn't mete out their own justice and save us this trouble and expense."
Faced with the technical problem of how to hang a modern pirate, U.S. District Judge Ritter dusted off his law books in Miami and found a long-superseded legal provision calling for buccaneers to be hung in the port where they were first brought ashore. To Ritter this meant Fort Lauderdale, and the Broward County jail was the logical site.
On the August 15, 1929, Ritter signed Alderman's death warrant, instructing marshals to proceed north with their captive from Dade to Broward County. Tipped off by law-enforcement sources, a Miami Herald photographer was waiting in Fort Lauderdale when Alderman arrived. The marshals beat up the cameraman and smashed his equipment, whereupon local authorities issued arrest warrants for the U.S. marshals.
Meanwhile Broward politicians sought to protect the image of their tourist resort and to respond to constituents who broadly opposed the idea of an execution. First the county fathers declared the ceiling of the jail too low for a proper hanging. When Ritter shifted the site to the roof, officials claimed the roof was insufficient to support the weight of a gallows. The federal government offered to rent a piece of land beside the courthouse, and the county agreed -- then cunningly failed to reach a quorum for the necessary vote to approve the lease.
In exasperation Ritter finally moved the place of execution to the nearest federal land -- Coast Guard Base 6 -- and recruited the sheriff of Palm Beach County to tie the noose.
The more real the hanging became, the more Alderman transmogrified from backwoods brute to high-minded Bible-thumper. He began wearing a suit and spectacles, the latter necessitated by too much late-night Scripture reading. Whether calculated or sincere, Alderman's new martyr-image resonated in the public mind. Hendricks, the defense lawyer, claimed to have a petition signed by ten of the twelve Alderman jurors asking for a Justice Department review of the entire case.
The petition, if it ever existed, came too late. After mounting the steps of the scaffold and receiving the black hood, Alderman committed his final, unexpected, and defiant act. He began to sing a hymn, and kept on singing until the moment when the trap door dropped.
Only one of the original Coast Guardsmen, Frank Tuten, was there to hear it.
As if to make up for the secrecy of the hanging, Alderman's funeral was beset by more than 7000 people. Some may have wished they'd stayed home, because the eulogy went on for nearly four hours. The largest of the many floral arrangements covering the gray casket was one inscribed simply "From Your Buddies."
Beginning in January 1928, the Coast Guard in Washington ordered new reinforcements to Fort Lauderdale: 300 men, twelve ships, and a pair of seaplanes equipped with top-of-the-line radios.
The Fort Lauderdale Daily News reported that "the present concentration of forces in Florida and the active war against rumrunners is said to be directly traceable to the killings... by Alderman."
Reviewing the Alderman episode, one government analyst in the booze war wrote to his superiors saying he was concerned that Alderman's name might live on long after his execution:
The aftermath of this horrible affair indicates as nothing else could the deplorable state of affairs on the southeast coast of Florida and points unmistakably to the course which it seems we must follow in the near future. It appears that the decent element in these communities is so overawed by the criminals that they are unable to bring about any public condemnation of Alderman....
Not long after, according to press reports, South Florida smugglers offshore began using carrier pigeons to communicate with their confederates on land. One rumor had them using wireless robot boats to carry their cargoes. Alderman was many months in the ground before federal officials realized that rumrunners were turning more and more to airplanes, beginning to land them routinely by night in the Everglades.
The last document in Alderman's court record, now housed in a federal archive in Atlanta, is a May 17, 1932, plea by Alderman's wife, Pearl Alderman, to return her husband's pistol. There is nothing in the record to indicate that the government complied with the request.
The petition was entered a few months before the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
Alderman himself lies in lot 5, section C, of Miami Memorial Park, a cemetery in South Miami. The grave is situated next to a hurricane fence, and standing beside it one can hear the low noise of traffic from two expressways.
The grave is unmarked, and according to the cemetery's keepers, no one has asked to see it in many years. Alderman's original request was partly granted: he was buried in a white suit, but carried no rose to the gallows.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.