Mark Haller, Temple professor, crime expert

Mark H. Haller
Mark H. Haller
Posted: September 26, 2012

Mark H. Haller, 83, formerly of Center City, a professor emeritus at Temple University who was an expert on the history of organized crime, died Saturday, Sept. 22, of pneumonia at Brooke Grove, a retirement community in Sandy Spring, Md.

Dr. Haller joined Temple's faculty in 1968. He was a professor in the history and criminal justice departments, which he helped establish, before retiring in 2010.

Dr. Haller, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the history of the eugenics movement in the United States, transferred his interest to the study of the history of crime while teaching at the University of Chicago.

On Temple's history department's website, he explained how it happened: "In the mid-1960s, I received, unsolicited, a grant to write a report on an aspect of crime and criminal justice in 1920s Chicago. I found the topic challenging."

Dr. Haller said that after joining Temple's faculty, he began to study Philadelphia organized crime, which he preferred to call "illegal enterprise."

Over the years, Dr. Haller published articles describing the structure of gambling, bootlegging, loan sharking, and drug trafficking, and the relationship between organized crime and the community - especially political connections.

In an Inquirer article about the rising rate of robberies in Philadelphia in 1996, Dr. Haller pointed out that a century earlier, people were less likely to be robbed and more likely to lose money on the street to pickpockets. "It doesn't mean you lose more money, but the feeling of safety is very different," he said.

"I've been mugged twice in Philadelphia in 28 years, and I can tell you that was more frightening than four attempts to pick my pocket in Rome."

In 1990, Dr. Haller was interviewed about Moses L. Annenberg and his son Walter H., former owners of The Inquirer, for a WHYY TV12 series, Mobfathers. Moses Annenberg became a multimillionaire through his monopoly of the racing wire, which telegraphed race results and tracked odds from coast to coast. Eventually, he was convicted of income-tax evasion and went to prison.

Dr. Haller is the author of a book on the eugenics movement and of Life Under Bruno: The Economics of an Organized Crime Family.  

Early next year, University Press of America will publish Illegal Enterprise: The Work of Historian Mark Haller. The book, a compilation of Dr. Haller's essays, was edited by Matthew Yeager, associate professor of sociology at King's University College at Western University Canada in London, Ontario.

Dr. Haller grew up in Bethesda, Md. He earned a bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's degree in history from the University of Maryland.

He served in the Army in Germany for two years before earning a doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1959.

An advocate for his Temple colleagues, Dr. Haller helped organize a faculty protest in the early 1990s to try to halt the building of a multimillion-dollar basketball arena.

"Mark focused much attention on the governance of Temple, on the cause of civil liberties, on the reform of criminal justice, and was generous to charities and political campaigns," his brother Robert said.

Dr. Haller was a competitive tennis player from his high school years into his 70s, winning tournaments and developing a network of tennis-playing friends, in particular at the Germantown Cricket Club, his brother said.

A world traveler, Dr. Haller especially loved India, and he acquired a collection of Indian art. He was an opera aficionado and was a volunteer with the Opera Company of Philadelphia.

Dr. Haller enjoyed his two nephews and two nieces as children and was close to and supportive of them in adulthood. Most recently, he had a special affection for his grandnephew and grandniece, his brother said.

In addition to his brother, Dr. Haller is survived by another brother, Donald.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.


Contact Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913, or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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