A Doctor’s Last Will

By Larry Teren

1963- November A young black man in his 20’s walked into a doctor’s office on Madison Street about three blocks east of the old Chicago Stadium. The fellow asked to see Dr. Howard Gless (fictional name). The receptionist pointed to the appointment ledger book and asked him to sign in. He wrote down “Jackson”. There were about a half dozen other patients in the waiting room when she led him go to the examination room.

The nurse didn’t show any concern about this patient as Dr. Gless had been listed by the Illinois Public Aid commission as being one of ten doctors who received the largest income from Illinois for treating relief recipients. In fact, his income for tending to welfare patients for the past twenty months had been more that $31,000. That would be like making over $350,000 in 2016.   

A few minutes later, a shot rang out and “Jackson” bolted through the door, past the reception area still holding a revolver in his hand. Moments later, Dr. Gless staggered out of his office into the adjoining office of a dentist where he collapsed and died.

The police went on the presumption that the gunman knew of Dr. Gless’ reputation of helping patients from the ‘hood and was probably looking for easy access to narcotics. A week and a half later, the gunman was killed in a shootout with police after he had robbed an auto leasing office just west of Kedzie Avenue on Jackson Boulevard. As part of the crime ordeal, he robbed the office, forced two women as hostages and made them walk to a building a block north on Adams where he proceeded to molest them.

Witnesses to the robbery observed the gunman and pointed to police responding to the incident where he went. They followed into the building while he shouted to the officers that if they approached any closer he would kill the women. He fired a shot and the police returned a volley of shots. He staggered back into a bedroom and fell dead.

The police ran tests on the gun he used in the holdup as well as the bullet he fired at them. It matched the bullet and gun used in killing Dr. Gless. The gunman’s name was not “Jackson” but that of a previous felon who had been released from Pontiac State Prison a month earlier after having been incarcerated there for five years upon conviction of armed robbery.

The dead killer had been living at Adams and Central Park. It was one thing to check out a potential robbery site a block or so from where he lived to know when to strike. Why, though, would he go more than two miles east to a doctor’s office to try to get drugs when there were doctor’s offices conveniently nearby? Did someone tell him about Dr. Gless’ reputation with helping out the unfortunate?

Dr. Gless had twice previously been involved with circumstantial evidence that would allegedly point him out to be a doctor with shady connections. In both cases, he was exonerated. In a third situation, maybe it was just a coincidence.

1937- February. Dr Gless was arrested for allegedly conspiring to obtain money under false pretenses. The assistant state’s attorney said that Gless refused to testify before the grand jury in an ambulance chasing investigation. Several months earlier there had been a collision between two street cars on the near south side on Clark Street. It had been determined that a ring of “ambulance chasers” had concocted a scheme to show injuries received around the same time, get them certified by doctors as having been connected to the accident and then they would claim the small payouts of $100 to $300 for their injuries. The problem with the scheme was that there was proof that the bus they all claimed to be on had been empty- no passengers. Dr. Gless was held for arraignment in Felony Court. Gless had been fingered as part of the conspiracy by one of the phony claimants. The claimant maintained that his attorney, also under indictment, had recommended that he go see Gless to get the fake injury certification.

1937- July. The case came to trial and the state was relying on a fat man with a history of ambulance chasing- pretending to fake an injury to try to collect a quick dollar. They were hoping his assertion that Dr. Gless and three lawyers were in on the scheme would be accepted by the jury. Bu the give-and-take between the lawyers’ defense attorney and the star witness took on the air of a circus and the fat man’s testimony was not found to be believable.

For his part, Dr. Gless insisted that he knew of no conspiracy and thought he was handling a regular injury and helping a person process an insurance claim. His office receptionist, a female precinct worker in the 27th ward, corroborated his claim.

1937- August The fat man received an eight day sentence in the pokey for the ambulance chasing charge. Dr. Gless was exonerated as to not being in on a conspiracy. But this was not his last odd brush with the law.

1940- May a Middle-aged couple had just gotten into their car driving home from a visit to the residence of Dr. Gless and his wife. A block or so later, their car was forced to the curb by another. Two men got out of the car brandishing guns and took $11,000 worth of jewelry, a Persian Lamb coat and $6 in cash. One robber struck the husband when he was slow to hand over the jewelry. The wife was taken as hostage and released a couple of miles away.

1944 August– An unwed mother won her court fight to get back custody of her infant son. Besides the foster parents returning the child, the planned adoption by another couple was ordered vacated by the judge. The judge ruled that the mother was taken advantage of and imposed upon. The consent to allow the baby to be adopted was not obtained in a proper manner.

Dr. Gless had given the distressed unwed mother the adoption papers to sign. She claimed that she did not understand the nature of the document she was signing. Doctor Gless testified that another doctor who had given the woman prenatal care told him that the woman had asked that an adoption be arranged.

Adding to the irony of this saga was that at the time of his death in 1963, Dr. Gless’ son was an assistant state’s attorney. By 1969. his son would quit working for the government and become a defense attorney. In one case a suspect who had been wanted in a series of rapes was waiting to be picked up by police in Gless’ – the defense attorney – office.

In 1970, Gless defended an underage assailant who along with three others were alleged to kill two policemen by sniper shooting. The shootings had been part of a truce agreement between two gangs operating out of a public housing complex. The targeted policemen were part of the “walk and talk” program created for good will by the police.

More than forty-five years later, with an average of ten shootings a day in Chicago,  irony is all that is left.

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