Hatchet Job Part One
Jewel Lansing, in her otherwise brilliant Portland: People, Power and Politics 1851-2001 gives the story one short inset, ending with this claim: Akin’s murder was never solved. It’s probably not fair to blame Jewel too much, because she relied very heavily on the work of Portland’s “official” historian E. Kimbark MacColl.
MacColl, in Growth of a City goes into great detail on the Port scandal and the politics that lay behind the murder, but gives Akin’s death itself only a passing wink:
“The timing and mysteriousness of the murder, which was never solved, generated numerous conspiracy theories to which the local press gave maximum coverage…. In February, 1936, two unknown and unlikely characters were indicted by the grand jury, but they escaped conviction. The evidence was strictly circumstantial.”
|Leo Hall was executed for six murders he committed at Erland's Point on the Olympic Peninsula. He was the also the hired gunman who shot Frank Akin. Photographer unknown. Washington State Archive.|
The two “unlikely characters” that were charged with murder in Akin’s death turn out to be Leo Hall and Jack Bernard Justice. Hall was later hung by the state of Washington for another crime. Justice was convicted of hiring Hall to murder Akin for the benefit of “parties unknown.” Justice would serve nearly 9 years of a life sentence for 1st degree murder.
|The Willamette River has always been a working river. Frank Akin had just finished investigating illegal activity at the Port of Portland and was just about to look into the corrupt Portland Water Bureau when he was killed.|
I have a pile of documents still to work through, but over the next few days I will share what I find with you. Together maybe we can finish putting the pieces of this puzzle together. Maybe we can start to make a guess about who was really responsible for this death.
Hatchet Job part two: The Port Investigation
More details will be revealed in my upcoming book with Theresa Griffin Kennedy
Murder and Scandal in Prohibition Portland: Vice, Sex and Misdeeds during Mayor Baker's Reign.
Coming in February 2016 from The History Press.