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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Harry Bennett Part 2


Harry Bennett left, with I.A. Capizzi who was Ford's legal counsel during the 1920s & 30s.

As Bennett continued to gain power he was eventually made head of the "Service Department" aka Ford Security. The Service Dept. did everything from plant security to infiltrating unions. It was much more than just security- they followed your every move "you couldn't go take a crap without one of those sons of bitches following you into the head" one retired Ford employee is known to have stated. Bennett also became head of Personnel during his 30 years with Ford Motor Co.

Harry Bennett talked big, but he wasn't that big in stature. He was only 5-7, but quick on the draw. As Charles Sorensen wrote in his book"My forty years with Ford", "Harry Bennett used to strut around the plant like a Bantam Rooster"

Here's a few things that make Harry Bennett one of the most talked about people in Ford Motor Co. history.

"There was a man named Tom Biggar, then state boxing commissioner, who usually came out to see me around lunchtime. He did that for years. One day he came out with John Haggerty, a political boss. As they stepped into my office, I had just finished cleaning and loading a .38 pistol.

Biggar came in with a foul cigar in his mouth. A little annoyed to see him, I said, "Take that cigar out of your mouth"

Biggar turned his face sideways and stuck out his jaw. His cigar bobbed up & down as he said, "Go ahead- shoot it out." I got a quick bead and fired, the cigar exploded in his face."
- Excerpt from "We never called him Henry"

Bennett kept lions, tigers and other large felines as pets and routinely brought them to the plant with him.

Contrary to popular belief- He drove a Franklin and not a Ford, altho Henry Ford gave him a Lincoln Sedan as a reward for a job well done on some project. This is not say he didn't drive Fords at all, but his primary car in the 1920s was the Franklin.

Bennett's well known connections to the Underworld, including the Purple Gang, and other well known gangs of the Midwest.

He owned what was most likely the most unusual home on Grosse Ile, a small island in the Detroit River east of Detroit. It was in the shape of a Pagoda and was directly on the water. This home still exists and is privately owned.

Henry Ford & Harry Bennett maintained a close working relationship, with Ford often phoning Bennett at 9.30 every evening and picking him up at his Yipsilanti or Grosse Ile estate every morning at 7.30am.

After Bennett left Ford Motor in 1945 he retired to Desert Hot Springs, CA, eventually moving again to Las Vegas where he died in 1979. He returned to Michigan only one time after his retirement from Ford and that was in 1951 to testify in a trial.

It is said when he moved out to CA, he left large amounts of clothing & personal effects behind, at his various homes including one out in Central Michigan that was built to look like a Log Cabin- this is now owned by the Boy Scouts and is used under the name of "Lost Lake Scout Reservation" A future post will go into the homes in more detail.