And Now You Know: Orange Police make gambling raid on the Piccadilly Club

Published 9:31 am Saturday, March 31, 2018

By Mike Louviere

In January 1953, Orange police, state and federal police made a raid on a club in Orange that was making bets on horse races. When the raid was conducted and the gambling operation shut down the statement was made that “gambling had ended in Orange, unless it went deep underground.”

Gambling did not end in Orange, and if it went underground, it was not deep underground.

On September 16, 1959, a raid was made at the Piccadilly Club located at 810 2nd Street. The scope of the raid was almost equal to those made on the then popular television show The Untouchables, a show about Elliot Ness and his federal agents raiding speakeasies and other illegal liquor operations during the Prohibition era.

A detective from the Pasadena Police Department, Kenneth B. Green, was borrowed to work as an undercover officer to obtain evidence of activity at the Piccadilly Club. Green was unknown to the operators of the club and to the patrons. He had been taking notes and gathering evidence for several weeks.

On the day of the raid, Green entered the club and bought a mixed drink across the bar. The undercover officer had also sat in on a card game earlier in the day.

Green slipped to the back of the club and opened a locked door. Officers poured in and caught people in acts of illegal gambling, including cards and dice. Orange Police Chief D.M. (Jack) Fawcette led the raid. District Attorney Feagin W. Windham and Orange City Attorney Robert M. Huey accompanied the riding police.

Seven Orange men and one woman from Beaumont were caught around a poker table in the back of the club. These eight were charged with gambling. Others arrested in the club were charged with vagrancy. Officers confiscated $288.50 in cash, 31 decks of cards, 16 pair of dice, and 173 bottles of assorted liquors.

The men operating the club were James R. Williams and Jesse M. Parker. Williams was a cousin of Claude Williams, a local gambler who had been the owner of the Showboat Gambling Barge. The Showboat had been a fixture in East Orange during the days of nightclubs and gambling there. The Showboat had since moved to Natchez, where it had recently burned.

Parker was a local gambler who had been connected with the Bridge Club, a private gambling club once located on the Neches River near Vidor.

The two operators were charged with keeping a gambling house and permitting gambling on the premises. The club barmaid was charged with vagrancy and assisting in the operation of an open saloon. Those arrested for gambling and vagrancy were fined $20 each.

In searching the club, officers found a sawed off shotgun, brass knuckles, a blackjack, and a small caliber pistol. They also found ledgers and receipt books.

Fawcette said the Orange police had been receiving complaints about gambling for several weeks. He and Windham had issued warnings about continuing gambling in Orange, including dominoes.

“This is only the initial phase of what will be a prolonged intensive drive against gambling in any form as long as I am in office. I consider any form of gambling done in a public place to be against the law. I will throw the full facilities of my office, with the cooperation of the police department, to stamp it out,” said Windham.

“We will stamp out all gambling within the city limits of Orange, It would be appreciated that those with gambling information contact me personally—action will follow,” said Fawcette.

There had been reports received of football parlay cards, punch boards, and a horse wire operation in the downtown business district. Fawcette and Windham stated they were pursuing leads about these operations.

“The gambling lid here, partially pried loose, was slammed down early today with a bang,” said Windham.

The efforts of Detective Green in assisting in this raid were appreciated by the City of Orange. Green was appointed Chief of the Orange Police Department, on November 4, 1960.

“And now you know”