FOR a man once described as “the brains behind the Mob”, and one of America’s most powerful men, Murray The Hump’s death -  a heart attack while vacuuming his apartment – seems remarkably mundane. 

But even for a revered gangster - keeling over while doing the housework, having been released on bail earlier that day on a perjury charge - was possibly the least surprising aspect in the life of the man born Llewelyn Morris Humphreys in Chicago in 1899. 

As indicated by his name, Humphreys had Welsh roots - having been born to parents who’d emigrated from mid Wales to the United States in either 1888 or 1889. 

The mobster’s mother, Ann Wigley, was second cousin to the grandfather of former Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley – meaning the Plaid politician and the man known as the political point man of the Chicago mob were third cousins. 

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Humphreys, nicknamed "The Hump" or also "The Camel" –either for obvious reasons or, reportedly, his fondness for wearing camel hair coats - died 56 years ago this week.

But it wouldn't be until nearly a decade after his death that Wigley learned of the connection. 

In 1976 a Welsh television documentary marking the bicentenary of American independence featured notable Welsh-Americans such as the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and The Hump, who talked about his mother's Powys farming family background. 

Llewelyn Morris Humphreys aka Murray The Hump   in his police mug shotDafydd Wigley who has carried out extensive research of his paternal family tree, including his link to Murray The Hump

Just two years into a Parliamentary career, Dafydd Wigley did some initial research into the family connection, though it is something he's taken further since retiring from elected office. 

“He was brought up in a Welsh speaking hearth - both his parents were Welsh speakers, and Welsh was the first language of the home - and words like ‘mochyn budr’ (dirty pig) tripped off his tongue,” said Wigley on just how Welsh his third cousin’s turn of the century Chicago upbringing was. 

Wigley has now given a number of talks and recorded a television documentary on his infamous cousin, but sadly missed the chance to properly meet Humphreys’ only child, daughter Llewella, when she was taken ill when visiting London in the 1980s.  

Llewella had been due to visit Wales to film with HTV, but she and her boyfriend both suffered suspected overdoses.

Wigley, at HTV’s request, had visited her while she was unconscious in Westminster Hospital - but once she came around, she abandoned her filming commitments and travelled to Switzerland, where the family fortune is reportedly held in a Swiss bank account.  

Llewella would die in poverty in 1992, and Wigley was unable to trace her son, George Brady, for a 2012 S4C documentary. 

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Humphreys was undoubtedly a ruthless individual. As a hitman he progressed through the ranks, reputedly masterminding the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre - when gunmen in police uniforms executed seven members of George ‘Bugs’ Moran’s North Side Irish gang, who were rivals to Al Capone’s Italian South Side crew. 

But it is how and why this man entered the American underworld, the third child born into a family steeped in the traditions of hard work and chapel, that has intrigued Dafydd Wigley. 

Ann Wigley had married Bryan Humphreys in Llanidloes in 1888, and their first two children were born before their marriage, with the oldest child brought up by a foster family in the Rhondda. 

Bryan, Ann and daughter Ethel had set up home in Raccine, Wisconsin by 1889, where Ann’s relatives were already established in the town in which 2,000 of its 15,000 residents were Welsh speakers. 

Llewelyn Morris Humphreys aka Murray The Hump   in his police mug shotThe former railway station building in Carno the village where Brian Humphreys and Ann Wigley had started their relationship

But Bryan, whose chapel deacon and lawyer brothers remained in Montgomeryshire, was a drinker and a gambler. Wigley suspects the couple may have wished to escape the close scrutiny of a close-knit and respectable Welsh-American community for the anonymity of the big city. 

When Bryan’s drinking cost him his job as a coachman, the family fell on hard times. They moved to the tough South Side, and Bryan would never again hold down a job. 

At the age of seven, Llewelyn Humphreys had been forced to leave the elite Haven School and was trying to support his family through the rough and cut trade of newspaper selling on the street corners of the windy city. 

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For Wigley, that had been a turning point in Humphreys’ destiny: “He obviously had some ability, and if Bryan hadn’t had a weakness for gambling and drinking, or, you question, if they had stayed in Montgomeryshire, you wonder what contribution he could have made to Wales or America? 

"Instead his talents were totally wasted in organised crime. 

“It underlines the responsibility parents, especially fathers, have to their children as primary carers and not abandoning them, as that can have such consequences.” 

The consequences for Humphreys would be a life of crime - and back room deals and fixes - in which he excelled.  

By 13, Humphreys was in the custody of a Chicago judge, Jack Murray, and adopted his name - becoming "Murray Humphreys" - though he appears to have been known as "Uncle Lew" to his wife’s family. 

At just 15, he was somehow granted a meeting with Chicago’s chief prosecutor when facing a serious theft charge.  

Humphreys told the prosecutor he would wear his Sunday best and cry as he recited the hard luck story of his impoverished family.

A sympathetic jury may acquit him rather than see him receive a long sentence, argued Humphreys. 

But for a lesser charge, he’d accept his short sentence without complaint, and the prosecutor would have his conviction.

The prosecutor accepted the deal - and a diamond-studded watch - the following day. 

Humphreys would progress to robberies and hostage-taking, but when he and a partner, Fred Evans, hijacked a lorry of illegal liquor belonging to feared prohibition-era boss Al Capone, his negotiating skills were needed more than ever.

Capone spared Humphreys’ life, but he would have to work for the Mafia don.  

When Capone was jailed in 1931, it was Humphreys that Chicago police named as public enemy number one. 

Capone said of Humphreys: “Anybody can use a gun. The Hump can shoot if he has to, but he likes to negotiate with cash when he can.” 

"The Hump" is often referred to as a trusted lieutenant of Capone, but such a description underplays the significant and leading role Humphreys held in organised crime - and even in the shaping of modern America. 

He had perfected the art of money laundering - washing criminal profit through legitimate businesses. 

But while some mobsters enjoyed the limelight, Humphreys was far more comfortable pulling strings from behind the scenes. His main residence was a modest house in the Chicago suburbs, though he also maintained apartments in the city and a home in Florida. 

At the height of his powers, Humphreys had direct control over 62 labour unions in the United States - and was bringing an estimated $600 million a year into the Chicago mob. He was also a member of the seven man board he had designed to run The Outfit. 

From 1947 he helped establish Las Vegas as America’s gambling capital, bribing Nevada state legislators to change the law, and he became joint owner of one of the largest casino hotels, the Tropicana. 

He was already a major figure in Hollywood. Between 1934 and 1941 the bosses of Warner Brothers, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox, had to pay protection money to the gangsters – or face crippling strikes from the unions. 

No wonder, perhaps, that when Bobby Kennedy was appointed Counsel to the House Rackets Committee in 1958 Humphreys was top of the wanted list - he had tricked and twisted his way out of several investigations.

As an adult he served only one short prison sentence, in the 1930s. He had devised a plot that exploited America’s double jeopardy rules to protect him and a large number of gangland figures from further prosecution. 

Llewelyn Morris Humphreys aka Murray The Hump   in his police mug shotAl Capone

Popular belief has it that the Chicago Outfit secured John F Kennedy the presidency, by fixing the vote in Illinois in 1960 - though Humphreys had a long-standing dislike of the Kennedys dating back to a feud with their father.

There is even a theory that the mob and Humphreys may have been behind President John F Kennedy’s assassination. 

In 1963, the year JFK was killed, Humphreys had visited Wales, supposedly taking a London black cab to the farmland his parents had left some 70 years earlier. 

He met local people, including Frank Thomas, who would become a county councillor, and four distant relatives who were all tenant farmers. He suggested they buy their farms, but they couldn’t raise the funds. 

Two months later they were handed the free-holds, purchased by Humphreys, who had worked at arm’s length through a solicitor but never said a word. 

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Dafydd Wigley said he has been told the story by three independent sources, and it appears typical of Humphreys, who was noted for his generosity and gentlemanliness. 

He had established pension schemes for the wives of mobsters, would hand turkeys to the poor in Oklahoma City - where his first wife was from - and carried a pocket of silver dollars to give to anyone he met who was down on their luck.

He also always carried $10,000 in rolled bank notes in case he should ever meet an awkward policeman. 

FBI agents who tailed him for years noted him for his politeness and manners, and respected him. One legendary tale tells of the Hump pulling over his car, approaching the agents and saying : “You guys have been following me all day. There’s no need for two cars, I’ll ride with you.” He spent the day with them, and even bought them lunch. 

Humphreys died after pulling a gun on FBI agents who had called at his flat to arrest him for perjury. He was wrestled to the ground,  arrested and released on $10,000 bail - but at 8.30pm on November 23, 1965 his brother Ernest found him lying on the floor, where he had been vacuuming.

He had died of a heart attack, though there is a theory he could have been injected with air behind the ear - which would cause the same effects as a heart attack. 

The death was headline news, and Murray the Hump remains a figure of fascination to this day - both in America, and the land of his fathers. 

“I have done about 20 lectures on him, mainly in Wales, but a couple in North America and had over 200 people come to some of them - so there is a fascination,” said Wigley. 

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“But I’m always quite mindful, and have a reservation about the whole thing, as the last thing I would want to do is make him a hero. He was a bad man - but the question is, what could he have been if that ability could have been better channeled? That is the important question."

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