UNL and the Dry Spell: Student Attitudes Toward Prohibition, 1931-1932

Project Editor:Jeffrey Miller, History 470: Digital History, Spring 2008

Table of Contents

The Wimberly Affair
The Beer Apartment Raid
Source Page

Editorial Note:The following is a transcription of an article form the Daily Nebraskan student newspaper.

'Three Gun' Wilson Says University One of Best Institutions in America; Nebraska Group Not Drunken Sots


The University of Nebraska is one of the finest institutions in America. The students are not the drunken sots—the carousing jazz hounds that some of our morbid politicians and overambitious newspapers would have you believe, says Harold D. (Three Gun) Wilson, Federal prohibition enforcement officer for Nebraska.

Mr. Wilson came to Nebraska on Jan. 12, 1932 from Massachusetts, and has for the last ten years been connected with federal prohibition enforcement, being previously stationed in West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Tufts college, where he was a star athlete, lettering in football, basketball and baseball. The nickname (three gun) was given to him because a friend in Massachusetts gave him a brace of pistols and he added his own to the collection. Aside from this, he has the reputation of attacking his problems with a "bang," and is noted for his aggressiveness in prohibition enforcement work.

"The reason why the majority of people today are so seemingly mixed up on prohibition enforcement, is because they are attempting to compare it to perfection," he stated. "This is why many maintain their fallicious [sic] contentions that prohibition has failed. It has not failed. The only fair-minded way to ascertain whether prohibition has failed is to compare it with other law enforcement. According to governmental authorities in Washington, D. C., a recent survey of the records of all our Federal courts shows that 86 percent of the prohibition violators brought to trial are convicted. The postoffice [sic] violations have only 80 percent convictions, narcotics, 81 percent, internal revenue 64 percent, banking and finance 68 percent, and of all the branches of law enforcement, we find only one which has a higher percentage of convictions than prohibition, and that is foreign relations."

"The average college student, as well as the average citizen listens too much to propaganda, and not enough to facts. What they need

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is some plain horse sense, and plain horse sense is just "stable thinking." We listen to the wailing stories of disappointed politicians—to the clamour [sic] of brewery manufacturers, and last but not least, to the poor wretched individual who is not strong enough to resist the outcries of his alcoholic eaten stomach," he said.

"It is a popular misconception," he added, "that people want to break the law, because it is the law. Take for instance: should the municipality of Lincoln pass a law prohibiting the housewives of the city from throwing their kitchen swill out the front window—do you think they would do it? Of course not. For aeons of time we have had God's Ten Commandments, and do you believe that people break them because they are laws. No, people obey laws or break laws because of their on convictions, not because of the fact that it is a law."

"Thus we see the absurdity of believing heresay [sic] and newspaper propaganda. Newspapers today—for reasons unknown, tend to play up any apparent weakness in the prohibition law. As an example of this I wish to cite an incident that happened in pre-Volstead days. In an important newspaper I found an article of four lines, describing the death of one young man, and the serious illness of three other young men, from drinking grain alcohol. If such an incident should take place today, it would be broadcast thruout [sic] the United States, headlines and pictures in every newspaper, placing the blame on prohibition. I appeal to the people of Nebraska, use your head—don't believe this ropaganda, [sic] investigate and find out the truth."

"The purpose of prohibition," he continued, "is not to take away liberty—but to preserve it. It is to give those people who want to be good a chance to do it."

"We often hear the comment today, that conditions are worse than before prohibition. College students, don't believe it! I was a student myself at one time, and I know wherof I speak. In my days they used to almost promote a man for staying drunk—today they expel him. The recent episode which happened on your campus indicates that conditions are nothing like this. None of your University students were connected with it in any way, but still, wrong impressions are cast out in many instances."

"It is interesting to watch the gullibility with which some of us still watch the Literary Digest straw vote," said Mr. Wilson. "The only surprising thing is that some of us are still flabbergasted to find that the results are always wringing wet. Here is another glaring example of why some of you may need an examination by a psychiatrist to determine your thinking facilities. I realize it is painful for many of you think, but after all, it isn't altogether impossible," he said. "Just ask yourself the question, have you received a ballot? Do you know of one who has received one? If so, did they vote and return it? Students, the only ones who do return it are those interested in the return of the saloon consequently they are the ones to whom the ballots are sent."

We must fight for prohibition—push ahead, it can be enforced. Drunkeness [sic] prostitution and gambling go hand in hand. Take liquor away and the other two will starve to death. Honest officials are all we need to enforce the law, and we are enforcing it in Nebraska, and elsewhere.

In examining the great amount of wealth amassed by Al Capone, we find that only 20 percent accumulated was from liquor sales, while the other 80 percent accrued from his gambling devices and houses of prostitution.

"If I sent one of my men down to Lincoln with a warrant for a crook, he wouldn't go to any of the University officials or church officials to find him, he'd go to the places frequented by such characters. Any person who tells you that he can go to thirty places and get a drink either in Omaha or Lincoln, is either lying, or else he isn't the type of person desirable for you to be associating with."

"The bootlegger is worse than a thief—he takes your reputation as well as your money. The detection of speakeasies is not difficult. They all have living advertisements, a human trail leading down the alley or into dusty, dirty places of ill repute. I might add that some of our "shyster" lawyers who defend the bootlegger are in the same category."

This is my advice to University students, "There never was a more red blooded fight than the one today for prohibition. The welfare of our government hinges upon it. With our high powered automobiles, aeroplanes, etc., there can be no existence with liquor. It is up to you—the future generation to handle it."

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Author: Howard von Holtzendorff
Title: "'Three Gun' Wilson Says University One of Best Institutions in America; Nebraska Group Not Drunken Sots"
Periodical: The Daily Nebraskan
19 April 1932