Wanted: Notorious Bank Robbers
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Read on to learn about Scurlocks predecessors, 10 of historys notorious bank robbers.
One of the most successful crooks of the 19th century, Dobbs, whose real name was Michael Kerrigan, earned his fame as fence, bank robber and murderer. He started off with the Patsy Conroy gang of river pirates and quickly became known in his own right. Using money earned from bank robberies all over the East, including the $2.7 million robbery of New Yorks Manhattan Savings Institution in 1878, Dobbs bought a downtown saloon a small distance from police headquarters. When asked why crooks gathered near the headquarters, he replied, The nearer to church the closer to God. Though credited by authorities with netting at least $1 million over a 20-year criminal career, Dobbs died broke in Bellevue hospital after being found lying in a New York City gutter.
The James brothers were likely the best-known outlaws in America. Though immortalized in folklore as modern day Robin Hoods, the brothers kept what they stole and never gave to the poor. Both Frank and Jesse James were raiders and murderers during the Civil War, and saw no reason to change their ways just because the war was over. The James joined the Younger brothers and made their name robbing banks often audaciously, as when on his way out of town, Jesse stopped at a political rally and warned the crowd that something might be happening at the bank.
Soon after the brothers formed their second gang (the first ended when only Jesse and Frank escaped an unsuccessful bank robbery attempt), Missouris governor offered their partners $10,000 to assassinate Jesse. Though murderers and robbers, Jesse, who was assassinated, and Frank, who escaped charges and died a respected citizen, have remained popular.
Just as Pretty Boy Floyd was the champion of the Dustbowl, Ashley was the hero of the Florida Everglades. Impossible to track once he headed for the forest, Ashley was heralded as the enemy of encroaching civilization. He headed up a gang that stole close to a million dollars from 40 banks between 1915 and 1924. People shuddered at the sight of them coming into town in their Model T.
Ashleys image as man of the untamed wilderness carried into his bank-robbing strategy, which was most often non-existent. Advance planning frequently consisted of checking a banks hours to see if it would be open. The gang once didnt even bring a getaway car because they assumed someone at the bank with a car would be abe to drive for them.
In the end, an informant within Ashleys gang tipped police off that he would be visiting his father. Ashley escaped, but the police caught him when the gang stopped for a roadblock.
Personality and practice made Robert Leroy Parker, Butch Cassidy, one of Americas best-known Wild West heros. Free-spirited and daring, Cassidy robbed bank and trains without ever committing murder.
Raised on his Mormon fathers ranch, Parker took his alias from old-time rustler, Mike Cassidy, with whom he rode in the 1880s. He formed his Wild Bunch (which included the Sundance Kid) in 1896. After pulling their fourth train robbery, Cassidy fled to New York and then South America to escape bounty hunters sent out by the railroad.
Though there is speculation over how Cassidy spent his last years, overall evidence shows that he returned to the U.S. in 1910, married, and spent time in the Mexican Revolution as a mercenary under the name William Thaddeus Phillips.
The Dalton brothers wanted to follow the path of their famed cousins, the Younger brothers, who were bandits. But as robbers of the 1890s, they were past their time. After short stints and time in prison, three of the brothers - Grat, Bob and Emett - formed a gang and soon plotted a double bank robbery that they thought would earn them a reputation throughout the West. Unfortunately the bandits brains did not match those of their cousins, and after the attempt, Emett was the only one left alive.
After serving time in prison Emett brought the brothers more fame than their escapades warranted by writing for the moviessometimes appearing in roles within his own adventures. His best-known work, called When the Daltons Rode, came out six years before the last of the Daltons died.
Though not as famous as Floyd, Underhill robbed more banks. He earned the name Tri-State Terror for his assaults on Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas. After breaking out of prison, where he had been held for robbing small-town banks, he joined up with the Ford Bradshaw gang. Thousands of dollars later, Underhill decided to take a break from crime to marry his childhood sweetheart.
Underhills honeymoon hiatus turned out to be his downfall when FBI agents surrounded the couples vacation cottage on New Years Day 1934. Underhill engaged in a 30-minute gun battle during which at least 1,000 bullets were fired into the cottage. Bleeding from a dozen wounds, Underhill broke through the phalynx of agents, running to a store where he dove through the plate glass windows. He died from wounds five days later.
Charles Arthur Pretty Boy Floyd
Often considered the last of the great social bandits, Floyd gained the reputation of a heroconsidered a modern-day Robin Hood and a kind of pioneer for those who hacome from the dustbowl. A hard-working sharecropper in eastern Oklahoma, Floyd might never have turned to crime, had he earned enough money to support himself and his 17-year-old pregnant wife.
After mixing with criminals in Kansas City, Missouri, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, during which time he adopted the machine gun as his professional trademark, Floyd returned to Oklahoma where he was hailed as a champion of the poor. He would toss money out of his car window after robbing banks, and while inside the bank, would find and tear up first mortgages.
Though also a killer, in the eyes of his admirers Floyd could do no wrong. Floyd was accused of participating in the Kansas City Massacre of June 18, 1933, and subsequently became Public Enemy No. 1. The FBI finally cornered Floyd in a cornfield in Ohio, where he unsuccessfully tried to escape bullets by running in a zigzag through the husks.
George Baby Face Nelson
A name uttered only behind his back, Baby Face referred to Nelsons five-foot five-inch stature not his face or demeanor. Unlike many of the notorious bank robbers from the 18th and 19th Centuries, Nelson cared only for cold-blooded crime and none for craft. When performing a bank robbery, he would go into the bank shooting and force the survivors to hand over the loot.
Nelson began his career in crime in 1922 when he was sent to a home for boys after being arrested for auto theft.
Once paroled, he joined up with the Capone mob, but was dismissed for killing when he was supposed to only injure. A bank robbery and prison escape later, Nelson got together with the Dillinger mob, where he tried to outdo its leader in ruthlessness.
When Dillinger was shot by FBI agents, Nelson became Public Enemy No. 1. With ambitions of being the greatest criminal in history, Nelson organized a new gang and made plans to commit a robbery every day for a month. His plans were cut short when FBI agents found him with wife and partner in a stalled car in Illinois, and fatally wounded him in a fierce gun battle.
Bobby One-Eye Wilcoxson
Wilcoxson got his name after losing his eye as a child. He is famous both for his bank robberies and cold-blooded murder. He once jokingly talked to a guard about holding up his bank, and two weeks later shot him four times in the chest before seizing more than $32,000.
Wilcoxson first worked in the California lettuce fields in the 1950s and eventually became boss fruit picker. By the time he had a wife and daughter, he was often in trouble with the law on such charges as car theft and wife-beating. While in prison for car theft, he met Peter Curry and Albert Nussbaum, with whom he teamed up.
There is no record of how many bank robberies Wilcoxson pulled, but he reached his limit when Curry, having surrendered to the police, identified him as one of his partners in crime. FBI agents found him in Baltimore, and e was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Willie The Actor Sutton
Sutton had a dramatic flair and banks were his stage. Known as the Babe Ruth of Bank Robbers, Sutton said in his memoir, Where the Money Was, that he was more alive while robbing a bank than at any other time in his life.
For Sutton, criminal life began at the age of 10, when he started committing burglaries. Over the next 35 years, he netted an estimated $2 million earning his name for the many disguises he donned from postman, messenger, and window cleaner, to bank guard and policeman.
Sutton was placed on the FBIs list of 10 most wanted in 1951, and after being spotted on a Brooklyn street and caught, was sentenced to 60 years to life. He was released in 1969, and took on a new role as a consultant to banks on security matters.
Written by Jessica Lautin. © MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved