October 22, 2007

October 22 | Pretty Boy Floyd

February 3, 1904 - October 22, 1934: Age 30

Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd was one of the most romanticized bank robbers of depression era America. The subject of songs, books, and at least five films, Floyd began robbing at the age of 18 when he stole $350 in pennies from a local post office. He earned his nickname when a witness at one of his early heists described him as "a pretty boy." Floyd hated the name, but it stuck.

He quickly graduated from post offices to banks, supposedly robbing dozens of them throughout the midwest over the next three years. At the age of 21, he was arrested for a payroll robbery in St. Louis and sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled after three and vowed he would never see the inside of a prison again. As it turned out, he was right.

Floyd quickly returned to the only career he knew, robbing banks and payrolls throughout the midwest. He was caught once and sentenced to fifteen years, but escaped while being transported to the pen.

He was probably blamed for many more robberies than he actually committed. As Woody Guthrie wrote, "Every crime in Oklahoma was added to his name." By 1930, he was branded a "public enemy" by the FBI, but to many who had lost or were afraid of losing their farms or homes to bank foreclosures, he was a hero. He was protected and sheltered by locals almost everywhere he went.

Floyd was shot down on October 22, 1934 near East Liverpool, Ohio. According to the FBI report, he was ambushed in a cornfield, drew his .45 caliber pistol, and began firing and cursing at the police. When they returned fire, Floyd yelled "I'm done for; you've hit me twice." He died fifteen minutes later. Another account, by Chester Smith, a retired East Liverpool Police Captain, claims Floyd was only wounded in the shootout and that he was then shot at point-blank range — effectively executed — by FBI agent Melvin Purvis.

Floyd's body was embalmed and shipped to Oklahoma. His funeral was attended by between twenty and forty thousand people. It remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history.

Sources: Wikipedia, Crime Library

This entry was composed by my husband Tim Hurson. Thanks Tim!

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