In the 1920s, “Diamond Lil” ran central Illinois’s best-known “Black and Tan” resort — a brothel that offered both African-American and mulatto prostitutes. An imposing figure, with twelve diamonds set in gold in her teeth, Lil ran a tight ship that catered to the area’s high- profile clientele.
On September 29th, 1930 an angry man kicked in the door to her business and demanded to see her. After a scuffle, Lil shot him dead from the top of her stairs. The ensuing trial was the talk of the town for several weeks, as everyone waited for scandalous details on the city’s most famous denizens.They never got them: Lil shut the book on her life when a prosecutor tried to force her to testify against former clients.
When she drew a sentence of “one to life” at the state penitentiary in Joliet, her resort closed down for good. Her departure from Peoria coincided nearly with Marie Pryor’s arrival there, and Marie opened a brothel just down the street from Diamond Lil’s place.