Charles »Pretty Boy« Floyd
Early Life: Charles Arthur Floyd, soon to be called » Chock« Floyd, was born on February 3, 1904 in Georgia, one of seven children, but moved to a small farming community in Oklahoma, which he was to call home. His parents had a small farm, they were dirt-poor. His father spent most of his time trying to stay one step ahead of foreclosure. Droughts, plagues and dust storms brought farm production down to a crawl. In an attempt to help keep themselves fed the family became involved in the bootlegging business.
In 1921 he married 16 year old Ruby Hargrove, they eventually had a son, Jack Dempsey Floyd. Money was scarce. Looking for a better life he left his home and travelled north looking for harvest work. Many nights were spent in hobo camps. Charles was ready to work but there just wasn't any available. Eventually he gave up looking and brought his first gun. It wasn't long after that, at the age of 18, he pulled his first crime. He held up a post office for $350 in pennies. This was »easy money«. He was arrested on suspicion of the crime but his father gave him an alibi.
He took the train to St. Louis where he robbed a Kroger store of approximately $16,000. The money kept them for a few weeks but after spending it on expensive clothes and big meals they were broke again. He was arrested because local police found it suspicious that he had new clothes and a new Ford. When they searched his house they found some of the money still in it's wrapper. He was sentenced to 5 years in the Jefferson City Penitentiary. During his incarceration his wife gave birth to their son, Jackie, and divorced him. He was released after 3 years and vowed never to be locked up again.
Later life and criminal history:On a visit to his parents farm he discovered that his father had been shot to death in a family feud with J. Mills. The accused was aquitted of the crime. Charles took his father's rifle went into the hills and J. Mills was never seen again.
In the mid 1920's Floyd lived and operated in the East Liverpool, Ohio area as a hired gun for the bootleggers and rum-runners along the Midland, PA and Steubenville, OH stretch of the Ohio River. He became most notorious after he left the East Liverpool area. He headed west and found refuge in »Tom's Town« (now Kansas City), a town run by Tom Pendegast. Hired guns, murderer's and successful gangsters hung out here. It was here that he learned to use a machine gun and aquires the nickname »Pretty Boy«. It was a name given him by a madam, Beulah Baird Ash, in a brothel and he hated it. However, it stuck and made him into a colorful criminal. Floyd is reputed to have maintained relationships with both Ruby and Beulah throughout the rest of his life even posing as their husbands under assumed names.
During the next 12 years he robbed as many as 30 banks, killing 10 men. During his crime sprees in Oklahoma the bank insurance rates doubled. He filed a notch in his pocket-watch for everyone he killed. His first bank robbery is reported to have been the Farmers and Merchants bank in Sylvania, Ohio. Floyd was arrested at his Akron, Ohio hideout for this crime. He was tried and convicted but escaped by jumping out of the train window near Kenton, Ohio while on his way to the Ohio Penitentiary.
The first person he killed was a police officer, Ralph Castner, who stopped him from robbing a Bowling Green, Ohio bank on April 16, 1931. At this time Floyd was accompanied by William (Willis) Miller, known as »Billy the Killer«, Beulah and her sister Rose. A clerk in a store recognized them when they were purchasing dresses for the women. The clerk alerted the police who arrived as the group were walking down the street. As they ordered the group to stop, Floyd and Miller opened fire. Castner was killed, Chief Carl Galliher dropped to the ground, killing Miller and injuring Beulah, 21. Rose Baird, 23 was captured but Floyd escaped in a car.
On June 17, 1933 Floyd and an associate, Adam Richetti were reported as the culprits behind the » Union Station Massacre « in Kansas City where 5 men including FBI agent, Raymond Caffrey were gunned down in an attempt to free Frank »Gentleman« Nash a notorious underworld figure. Floyd maintained to his death that he was never involved in this crime.
During the next 17 months Floyd and Richetti were hunted by every law enforcement officer in the country. After the capture and death of John Dillinger, Floyd was named as Public Enemy No.1 with a $23,000 dollar dead or alive reward on his head. Floyds reign of terror brought him back to the East Liverpool area.
Folk Stories and Quotes about his life: Jack Floyd, although he saw his father infrequently, said in an article for the San Fransisco Examiner June 20, 1982, »He was a fun guy to be around. He was like a regular father. He always had some puppies or other presents for me. What I knew about him didn't keep me from loving him.«
He was a folk hero to the people of Oklahoma who perceived him as a »Sagebrush Robin Hood«, stealing from the rich banks to help the poor eat by buying them groceries and tearing up their mortgages during the robberies. He has been written into legend through song, in Woody Guthrie's »Pretty Boy« Floyd.
He was never part of a gang. He worked with a few trusted accomplices. Boldly entering banks in broad daylight and never wearing a mask. He was a gentleman even in his crimes, always well groomed, immaculately dressed and courteous to his victims.
Final Days: On October 19, 1934 he was spotted after three men dressed as hunters and carrying shotguns robbed the Tiltonsville Peoples Bank. Both Adam Richetti and »Pretty Boy« Floyd were positively identified as two of the men involved. Police and FBI were put on alert throughout Ohio for the suspects. The following day a shootout between two criminals and the Wellsville, Ohio Police ended in the capture of Richetti. Floyd escaped, kidnapping a Wellsville florist and stealing his car.
On October 22, 1934 things would finally come to a fatal end for »Pretty Boy« Floyd. The local police were called out, including Chief McDermott and patrolman Chester Smith. Firearms were issued, but Smith refused a weapon, instead, he kept his 32-20 Winchester Rifle. He told everyone that if they found Floyd he would be running. They checked all the backroads in the area that Floyd had been reported. Finally they came to the Conkle farm on Sprucevale Rd.
Floyd had knocked on the Conkle farm door posing as a lost hunter and had asked for a ride to the bus line. Ellen Conkle took pity on him and welcomed him into her home, feeding him a meal for which he paid $1. After eating, Mrs. Conkle volunteered her brother, Stewart Dyke, to drive Floyd to the bus station. The Dyke's and Floyd were getting into the car when two police cars were spotted speeding along the narrow dirt road. Floyd jumped from the car to hide behind a corn crib. As the police approached the farm they spotted a man behind the corn crib. Chester Smith recognized the face. Floyd started to flee. After being told to halt and not doing so Smith fired a shot from his rifle hitting Floyd in the arm. Floyd dropped his gun, grabbed his right forearm where he had been hit, but still jumped up and continued to run, darting for cover in the wooded area nearby. After another call to halt which also went unheeded Floyd was shot again, in his back right shoulder. The federal agents and local police all started firing at this time. Floyd fell to the ground, his gun by his side. Smith checked the body, he was not yet dead, and noticed that Floyd had another weapon in his belt. He had two Colt .45 automatics but never fire a single shot.
Patrolmen Smith, Roth and Montgomery carried Floyd to the shade of an apple tree. »He was alive when we carried him to the apple tree. But he died then within minutes.« Smith said. A call was placed to J. Edgar Hoover. Smith recalls, »Floyd was dead before Purvis returned (about 4:25 p.m.). We put Floyd's body in the back seat of the local police car, propping him up between me and Curly. That's how we hauled him to East Liverpool and turned him over to the Sturgis Funeral Home.« Floyd had $120 in his pockets.
There is much speculation about the actual events of the fateful day. One report states that Agent Purvis of the FBI ordered Floyd shot whilst he was sitting under the apple tree because he refused to answer when asked if he was involved in the Kansas City Massacre.
Smith's daughter said that Smith took the days events in a matter-of-fact way, coming home late for supper and just stating that he didn't have time to eat because he had just shot »Pretty Boy« Floyd. He washed up, changed and went back to work.
At the Funeral Home: Although Floyd's mother did not want her son's body viewed by the public, by the time Chief McDermott had received her wire there were thousands of people wanting to view the notorious criminal. He would be later shipped back to Oklahoma but in the mean time over 10,000 people passed by the body from 8:30 p.m. and 11:15 p.m., about 50 per minute. The mob had stormed the Funeral home and in the space of three hours, the porch railing had been torn off, shrubbery trampled and the lawn completely ruined.
Final resting place: At 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday October 23, 1934 Charles Arthur » Pretty Boy « Floyd's body left East Liverpool in a baggage car. One year before at the Akins Cemetery in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, Floyd had told his mother,
»Right here is where you can put me. I expect to go down soon with lead in me. Maybe the sooner the better. Bury me deep. « 20,000 people attended his funeral. His head stone has been desecrated by souvenir hunters and was stolen in 1985. A new headstone now marks his grave.