On Tuesday evening, at the Flower Mound Senior Center on West Windsor Drive, the Seniors in Motion organization hosted their Distinguished Speaker Series. It was my honor and privilege, along with longtime resident and custom homebuilder Ken Hodge, to be invited to speak to about 80 people who attended the meeting to hear about some local history.
When Ken bought the land around Grapevine Lake, now known as Point Noble, he discovered several stone cabins that had been built during the 1930s. Some of the cabins were destroyed during the land clearing in preparation for homesites. But, when it was learned that there was a history behind the small, well-fortified enclosures Ken decided to preserve two of them.
While dining at his elegant estate sometime later, Ken began telling me about a Dallas gambler/gangster that was part of the Benny Binion mob during the 1930s and 40s. His name was Herb Noble and he also owned a large ranch in the area now known as Flower Mound. The cabins were built on Noble’s property as a place to gamble outside of Dallas and to protect high rollers from being robbed during all night poker games. Ken also provided me with a lot of research material he had gathered and asked if I was interested in writing a book about it. Less than a year later, in 1999, “City to Die For” was published. The book chronicles the years from 1946 to 1951, during an era of bloody violence that became national news.
Subtitled, “One man’s struggle against the Mafia takeover of Dallas,” the, based on fact, book provides the reader with the saga of a man who took on the so-called Emperor of Crime in the DFW area. Binion had made a deal with the eastern crime syndicate known as the Mafia. He would share his profits from gambling, prostitution and an assortment of other criminal activities with the ever-expanding crime cartel in exchange for ownership of one of the syndicate’s Las Vegas hotels. When Herb Noble found out about the deal he spoke against it and his opposition was conveyed to the boss. Binion decided to make an example of his recalcitrant underling.
He gave the “contract” to his top enforcer; a brutal killer named Hollis DeLois Green. Known as Lois Green, his savagery belied his effeminate nickname. Green’s first attempt occurred in July 1946. Noble was leaving his gambling club on Live Oak Street in Dallas about 3 a.m. Green and another hoodlum followed his car as he headed for his Flower Mound ranch. That was before the town had a name (it was not incorporated and named until 1961 when Bob Rheudasil became its first mayor). In published reports of the era, it was known as the area north of Grapevine. They followed their quarry until he made a turn onto Northwest Highway, pulling alongside the car and spraying it with bullets. Noble was able to swerve off the road and exit the car, running quickly into the darkened shrubbery nearby. A bullet entered his lower back, but he got away.
The next day, as Noble was recuperating at Methodist Hospital in Dallas, he phoned a man named Charles “Sonny” LeFors, Known as “the groceryman” because he ran a small grocery in west Dallas as a front for a stolen goods operation. In addition, LeFors was a contract killer for anyone who would pay his price. Two nights later, LeFors picked off one of Lois Green’s men with a shotgun and the war in the big D had begun.
For the next five years, Dallas, and several towns and cities nearby, became a battleground with car chases and bullets flying as Binion’s men, later helped by Mafia hit men, tried again and again to end the life of the guy who stood in the way of the syndicate’s infiltration of Texas. Noble was wounded and survived so many times, he was labeled by the Dallas Morning News as “Cat Noble.” In one attempt on Noble’s life, his wife was killed in a car bomb explosion meant for him. An outraged public caught the attention of Senator Estes Kefauver, who had recently started a commission to study organized crime in America.
By that time it had become a blood feud between Binion and Noble. It wouldn’t end until August 7, 1951 when Noble reached into the mailbox at the perimeter of his ranch in Flower Mound. The massive blast sent body parts all over the dusty landscape, vaporizing the last life of “The Cat.”
Today, that ranch has been turned into an upscale community around Grapevine Lake, but those cabins, thanks to Ken and Pat Hodge, will always be part of the history and folklore of North Texas.
Bob Weir is a former NYPD officer, long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.