How Newport, Kentucky, Lost the Title of ‘Sin City’

When I was a youngster in Kentucky, I occasionally heard references to Newport as a “bad place,” but didn’t learn the details because the town was pretty far away. As an adult I visited the aquarium in Newport, and found it’s a perfectly normal town. But it once held the title of “Sin City.” It started with the Civil War and a lucrative prostitution trade. During Prohibition, it became a mecca for bootleg liquor, controlled by organized crime. Afterward, Newport was known for its casinos, strip clubs, and brothels. As the 1960s dawned, a citizens group, the Committee of 500, formed to find ways to clean up the town, and they stumbled into a spectacular scandal that did just that. Their plan was to elect a new sheriff, and they chose a clean-cut, all-American former NFL player from nearby Cincinnati named George Ratterman.

As a footballer, Ratterman cut an almost cartoonish figure of the handsome, corn-fed American hero, so he made a perfect law-and-order candidate for Newport sheriff. According to a 1999 article in the now defunct Cincinnati Post, by 1961, Ratterman was the married father of eight children, working both as a part-time sports commentator and in financial planning. He announced his campaign for sheriff of Newport in April of 1961, saying, “I am told that if I run for sheriff, I will be the victim of all sorts of personal slanderous attacks. But I say to our opponents, let the attacks start now, if they must. Let the battle be joined now.”

Just over a month later, he woke up in bed next to a stripper.  

The investigation that followed made national news, prompted Robert Kennedy to send in federal investigators, and revealed Newport’s organized criminal masterminds to be working on a Three Stooges level. Read the rest of the story at Atlas Obscura.

Source: neatorama

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