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"Pretty Boy" Floyd

the man who succeeded John Dillinger as the FBI's Most Wanted Man

Pretty Boy Floyd

Charles Arthur Floyd was born in Bartow County, Georgia, on February 3, 1904; he was the second son and fourth of six surviving children of Walter Lee Floyd and Mamie Helena Echols Floyd. His father, who worked as a tenant farmer, moved the family to Hanson, Oklahoma, in 1911.

As a boy, Charles was enchanted by newspaper stories about Henry Starr and other colorful bank robbers. At age 16, he became a hired hand on the wheat harvest circuit in Oklahoma and Kansas, but he soon tired of the work and decided to live the life of the men he had been reading about. His life of crime began on a bad note, however, as he was caught after a bungled post office robbery, in 1922. There was never enough evidence to try Floyd for the crime, but the robbery, which had netted him all of $3.50, almost cost him serious jail time.

Floyd met and married Ruby Hardgraves, daughter of another local tenant farmer, in 1924; the couple had one son, Jack Dempsey Floyd. In 1925, Floyd decided there wasn't enough money in Oklahoma to sustain a robbery career and hopped a train to St. Louis, Missouri. On September 11, 1925, he netted $11,000 by holding up a Kroger store. Unfortunately for him, however, one of his victims described Floyd as being a "Pretty Boy," and Floyd was stuck with a nickname he hated. The victim's description also led to Floyd's arrest, and he was subsequently sentenced to 3-1/2 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary. On January 4, 1929, Ruby Floyd filed for divorce on the grounds of abandonment. Charles did not contest the divorce, and Ruby took custody of their son. Charles and Ruby remained on fairly good terms, and Charles visited his son whenever he could.

Following his release from prison, Floyd moved to Kansas City, Missouri, which had a reputation as a haven for criminals. There, he met Juanita Baird, the wife of a local drug dealer, who ended up moving in with him. Floyd did not find much of a haven in Kansas City, however, as he was constantly taken in by the police for questioning. Floyd assumed that Baird's husband had paid the police to harass him, and rather than risk another jail term finally decided to leave town.

In November of 1929, Floyd returned to Hanson for the funeral of his father, who had died during an argument with a neighbor. After the funeral, he made his way to East Liverpool, Ohio, where he and several friends committed a string of robberies between January and March of 1930. On March 8, 1930, two gang members from Akron, Ohio, arrived at Floyd's home. One of them, James Bradley, had been shot during a confrontation with Akron officers that left an officer dead. While tending to Bradley's wounds, Akron detectives burst in and arrested all three men. Bradley was later executed; Floyd was convicted of robbery and sentenced to 15 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary. As he was being transported to the penitentiary, Floyd escaped from the bathroom on the bus and made his way back to Kansas City.

Once back in Kansas City, Floyd got back with Juanita, as well as her sister, Rose, and her boyfriend William Miller. After killing the ex-husbands of the two women, Floyd and Miller, along with the women, headed east, robbing banks along the way for spending money. The spree came to an end in Toledo, after a store recognized Floyd and called police. A gunfight ensued in which Miller and one officer were killed and both women were arrested; Floyd was able to get away, however, and he decided to return to Oklahoma.

In April of 1932, Oklahoma lawman-turned bounty hunter Erv Kelley caught up with Floyd near Bixby, Oklahoma, but ended up being shot to death by Floyd, who suffered 2-3 bullet wounds himself. By the fall of that year Floyd had teamed up with Adam Richetti, with whom he robbed a string of banks in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. By June of 1933 the two men were suspects in one of the most sensational crimes in Kansas City, Missouri, history.

On June 17, 1933, murderer Frank Nash was being taken taken back to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, from which he had escaped in 1930. He and his law enforcement escorts had just gotten into a car outside the Union Railway Station in Kansas City when three men with automatic weapons opened fire, killing Nash and four law enforcement officers. Richetti and Floyd were subsequently linked to the crime via fingerprint evidence. Although both men denied participating in the "Kansas City Massacre," they decided to play it safe and head east; they ended up in Buffalo, New York. It should be noted here that some evidence exists to suggest that both Floyd and Richetti may well have been falsely accused of this crime.

On July 25, 1934, bank robber John Dillinger was killed by the FBI in Chicago, and "Pretty Boy" Floyd found himself atop the FBI's Most Wanted list. Thinking he would be safer in Oklahoma, Floyd decided to leave Buffalo. The FBI and police caught up with him outside East Liverpool, Ohio, however, and Floyd died in a hail of bullets on October 22, 1934. He was buried in Akins Cemetery at Hanson, with over 20,000 people in attendance.

SOURCES
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
digital.library.okstate.edu

SEE ALSO
John Dillinger

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The Robinson Library >> Sociology >> Social Pathology >> Criminology

This page was last updated on June 01, 2017.