Two of the most fascinating people ever to attend Xavier were not necessarily the most ethical: Consider the cases of Harry Gold and Tito Carinci
Harry Gold arrived as a junior chemistry major in 1938, a short, chubby-faced unassuming young man with black hair who was six years older than his peers on the pre-war Xavier campus. He was quiet socially, yet brilliant academically. He avoided the University dances and social gatherings and spent most of his time studying, racking up As in chemistry, calculus and even English lit. His dedication paid off as he graduated summa cum laude in 1940.
Gold’s main extracurricular activity during his two years at Xavier was the chess club, but he also joined the intramural softball team as the 10th man in the outfield. Gold wasn’t very good, but he seemed to enjoy the game.
People who knew him just wrote him off as shy. They never suspected Gold of his other extracurricular activity: Russian spy. While carrying a full course load, Gold was living a double life, selling industrial, defense and atomic secrets to the Soviets as part of an espionage ring that led straight to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the most notorious spies America’s ever known.
“I never knew he was a spy until it was revealed in the newspapers in 1950,” says classmate Richard Trauth, who considered Gold a friend. “There were no signs. He was one of the gang.”
Xavier has many successful graduates—politicians, athletes, rocket scientists, inventors, business executives. But the University also has a small number of infamous graduates whose actions fall far from the high ethical and moral standards that the Jesuits strive to instill in every student. Gold was the standard.
Born Heinrich Goldnitsky in 1913 in Berne, Switzerland, Gold began helping the Russians in 1933 by stealing industrial formulas from the soap and sugar plants where he worked. He would wrap the documents in brown paper, as instructed by his Soviet contact known to him only as Fred, and slip them in the folds of a daily newspaper, which he’d pass to another spy at a designated time and place.
By the time he got to Xavier, he was thoroughly entrenched. Fred gave him more than $1,000 toward his educational expenses, met with him several times in Cincinnati and instructed him to make contact with a government official at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Gold made several attempts to recruit the official but was unsuccessful, according to FBI documents.
After graduation, Gold worked as an industrial chemist, a job he kept through World War II. During this time, he made contact with the British scientist spy Klaus Fuchs, who worked on the Manhattan Project, with David Greenglass, a machinist on the bomb project in Los Alamos, N.M., and finally with Julius Rosenberg, who sold secrets directly to the Soviets. Gold was a courier for Fuchs and Greenglass, who was Ethel Rosenberg’s brother. Busted by the FBI in 1950, Gold fingered Fuchs, Greenglass and the Rosenbergs. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sentenced to death by electric chair in 1953, and Gold was given 30 years in federal prison. He served 15 years, was released in 1966 and died from heart disease in 1972. His obituary never ran in a newspaper, and he died in obscurity.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that, while at Xavier, Gold’s worst class was ethics. But his time at Xavier apparently had a deep effect on him. At one point, he considered returning to Xavier to confess his crimes to one of the Jesuits. And during his trial, Gold expressed remorse for the pain he caused “those who mean so much to me—my country, my family and friends, my former classmates at Xavier University and the Jesuits there.”
The story isn’t so neatly concluded for Tito Carinci, whose future was bright when he led the 1951 football team to the University’s first undefeated season. After graduating in 1953, Carinci went on to the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. But his professional football career didn’t last long. Cut by Green Bay, he went into the Army, and when his service was over, Carinci returned to Cincinnati.
“That’s when he got mixed up in the Mafia,” says his friend and Xavier teammate Dennis Davis, who was the first African American to play football at Xavier.
Carinci looked out for Davis in that era before the Civil Rights Act. Both were from Steubenville, Ohio, and Davis got to know a side of Carinci that few others did. He says Carinci’s troubles didn’t make sense. “His father was the woodshop teacher at Central Catholic High School. He came from good, wonderful people.” But trouble is what Carinci found. By 1961, Carinci was president and manager of the Glenn Hotel and its Tropicana casino in Newport, Ky., which operated in the “Sin City” venue that catered to gambling, drinking and prostitution. The city’s reputation had been long in the making. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Cleveland mob controlled the businesses and the law. For decades it was wide open, earning a reputation nationally as a place where people could go to have a little fun.
Then came George Ratterman, a former Cleveland Browns standout who ran for sheriff as part of a campaign to clean up Newport. On May 8, Carinci met with Ratterman in a Cincinnati bar ostensibly to seek his help to come clear of the Mob. After one drink, however, Ratterman became groggy and disoriented. Newspapers reported that detectives found him half-dressed in Carinci’s Glenn Hotel apartment in bed with a stripper named April Flowers.
Ratterman’s political goose looked cooked. Then it came out that he’d been slipped a mickey—a triple dose of chloral hydrate—in an alleged attempt to besmirch his reputation. The case caught the attention of then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who used the case in his crackdown on organized crime, including in Newport.
Charges of soliciting prostitution against Ratterman were dropped, but so were charges against Carinci of attempting to frame him. Ratterman was elected sheriff, and Newport’s renaissance has been underway since. Carinci had several other scrapes with the law, including a conviction for selling $3 million worth of heroin in 1979. He pleaded guilty in a deal with U.S. Attorney James Cissell, a 1962 Xavier graduate, and served five years of a 20-year sentence.
Several years ago, Davis saw Carinci in Steubenville, and they shared memories of Xavier and of football. “But I didn’t talk to him about Newport,” Davis says. “We talked about the good things, not the bad.”
Today, Carinci owns a bar, the Pitcher House, in Hermosa Beach, Calif., and was even honored by the city council for his efforts to keep the ocean clean.
In 2002, Carinci, then 73, returned to the scene of his mistakes for the opening of a restaurant named after his famed casino. Gazing over the restaurant and the new Newport, he stood amazed. “I can’t believe how beautiful the whole place is.”