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Pretty Boy Floyd

pretty boy floyd, pretty boy floyd death photo
Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd February 3, 1904 – October 22, 1934 was an American bank robber He operated in the Midwest and West South Central States, and his criminal exploits gained widespread press coverage in the 1930s Like several other prominent outlaws of that era, he was pursued and killed by a group led by Melvin Purvis Historians have speculated as to which officers were at the event, local or the FBI: known accounts document that local officers Robert "Pete" Pyle and George Curran were present at his fatal shooting and also at his embalming Floyd has continued to be a familiar figure in American popular culture, sometimes seen as notorious, but also at other times viewed as a tragic figure, partly a victim of the hard times of the Great Depression in the United States


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Life of crime
  • 3 Kansas City massacre
  • 4 Death
  • 5 Legacy
    • 51 Music
      • 511 "Pretty Boy Floyd"
      • 512 "Avenging Annie"
      • 513 Bands
    • 52 Literature
    • 53 Comics
    • 54 Film
    • 55 Sports
    • 56 Video games
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links

Early life

Charles Arthur Floyd was born in Bartow County, Georgia, in 1904 His family moved to Akins, Oklahoma in 1911, and he grew up there As a youth, he spent considerable time in nearby Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri

Life of crime

Floyd was first arrested at the age of 18 after he stole $350 in coins from a local post office Three years later he was arrested for a payroll robbery on September 16, 1925 in St Louis, Missouri and was sentenced to five years in prison He served three and a half years before being granted parole

When paroled, Floyd vowed that he would never see the inside of another prison Entering into partnerships with more established criminals in the Kansas City underworld, he committed a series of bank robberies over the next several years; it was during this period that he acquired the nickname "Pretty Boy" The nickname was given to him by Orville Drake, because when he worked in the oil fields he would wear a white button-up dress shirt and slacks to work The men on the rig began calling him "Pretty Boy" which was later turned into "Pretty Boy Floyd" According to one account, when the payroll master targeted in a robbery described the three perpetrators to the police, he referred to Floyd as "a mere boy — a pretty boy with apple cheeks" Like his contemporary Baby Face Nelson, Floyd despised his nickname

In 1929, Floyd was wanted in numerous cases On March 9, he was arrested in Kansas City on investigation, and again on May 6 for vagrancy and suspicion of highway robbery, but he was released the next day Two days later, he was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado, and charged with vagrancy He was fined $5000 and sentenced to 60 days in jail

Floyd, under the alias "Frank Mitchell," was arrested in Akron, Ohio, on March 8, 1930, charged in the investigation of the murder of an Akron police officer who had been killed during a robbery that evening The law next caught up with Floyd in Toledo, Ohio, where he was arrested on suspicion on May 20, 1930 He was convicted of the Sylvania Ohio Bank Robbery and sentenced on November 24, 1930, to 12–15 years in Ohio State penitentiary, but he escaped

Floyd was a suspect in the deaths of Kansas City brothers Wally and Boll Ash, who were rum-runners They were found dead in a burning car on March 25, 1931 A month later on April 23, members of his gang killed Patrolman R H Castner of Bowling Green, Ohio On July 22, Floyd killed federal agent Curtis C Burke in Kansas City, Missouri

In 1932, former sheriff Erv Kelley of McIntosh County, Oklahoma, was killed while trying to arrest Floyd on April 7 In November of that year, three members of Floyd's gang attempted to rob the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Boley, Oklahoma Despite his life of crime, Floyd was viewed positively by the general public When he robbed banks he allegedly destroyed mortgage documents, but this has never been confirmed and may be myth He was often protected by locals of Oklahoma, who referred to him as "Robin Hood of the Cookson Hills"

Kansas City massacre

Floyd and Adam Richetti became the primary suspects in a June 17, 1933, gunfight known as the "Kansas City massacre" that resulted in the deaths of four law enforcement officers Though J Edgar Hoover used the incident as ammunition to further empower the FBI to pursue Floyd, historians are divided as to whether or not he was involved Another more likely suspect was gang member Sol Weismann, who resembled Floyd Floyd adamantly denied his involvement in this fiasco apparently a botched attempt to free bank robber Frank Nash, who was in police custody

The gunfight was an attack by Vernon Miller and accomplices on lawmen escorting robber Frank "Jelly" Nash to a car parked at the Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri Two Kansas City, Missouri, officers, Detective William Grooms and Patrolman Grant Schroder, McAlester, Oklahoma Police Chief Otto Reed, and FBI Special Agent Ray Caffrey were killed Nash was also killed as he was sitting in the car, shot in the head by his would-be rescuers Two other Kansas City police officers survived by slumping forward in the backseat and feigning death As the gunmen inspected the car, another officer responded from the station and fired at them, forcing them to flee Miller was found dead on November 27, 1933 outside Detroit, Michigan, having been beaten and strangled

Floyd and Richetti were alleged to have been Miller's accomplices Factors weighing against them included their apparent presence in Kansas City at the time, eyewitness identifications which have been contested, Richetti's fingerprint said to have been recovered from a beer bottle at Miller's hideout, an underworld account naming Floyd and Richetti as the gunmen, and Hoover's firm advocacy of their guilt Fellow bank robber Alvin Karpis, an acquaintance of Floyd's, claimed that Floyd confessed involvement to him On the other side of the issue, the bandit alleged to have been Floyd was supposed to have been wounded by a gunshot to the shoulder in the attack, and Floyd's body showed no sign of this injury when examined later The underworld account identifying Floyd and Richetti as the killers was offset by equally unreliable underworld accounts proclaiming their innocence or identifying others The Floyd family has maintained that while Floyd admitted to many other crimes, he vehemently denied involvement in this one, as did Richetti It has also been contended that this crime would have been inconsistent with Floyd's other criminal acts, as he was not otherwise known as a hired gun or especially a hired killer

Shortly after the attack, Kansas City police received a postcard dated June 30, 1933, from Springfield, Missouri, which read: "Dear Sirs - I - Charles Floyd - want it made known that I did not participate in the massacre of officers at Kansas City Charles Floyd" The police department believed the note to be genuine Floyd also reportedly denied involvement in the massacre to the FBI agents who had fatally wounded him In addition, a recent book on the massacre attributes at least some of the killing to friendly fire by a lawman who was unfamiliar with his weapon, based on ballistic tests


On July 23, 1934, following the death of John Dillinger, "Pretty Boy" Floyd was named Public Enemy No 1 On October 22, 1934, Floyd was shot in a corn field behind a house on Sprucevale Road between Beaver Creek State Park in East Liverpool, Ohio, while being pursued by local law officers and FBI agents led by Melvin Purvis Accounts differ on who shot him and the manner in which he was killed

Having narrowly escaped ambush by FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies several times after the Kansas City Massacre, Floyd had a stroke of bad luck On October 18, 1934, he and Richetti left Buffalo, New York, and their vehicle slid into a telephone pole in heavy fog No one was injured, but the car was disabled Fearing they would be recognized, Floyd and Richetti sent two female companions to get a tow truck; they planned to have the women accompany the tow truck driver into a town and have the vehicle repaired, while the two men waited by the roadside

After dawn on October 19, motorist Joe Fryman and his son-in-law passed by, observing two men dressed in suits lying by the roadside Feeling it was suspicious, he informed Wellsville, Ohio, Police Chief John H Fultz Three officers, including Fultz, investigated When Richetti saw the lawmen, he fled into the woods, pursued by two officers, while Fultz went towards Floyd Floyd immediately drew his gun and fired, and he and Fultz engaged one another in a gunfight, during which Fultz was wounded in the foot After wounding Fultz, Floyd fled into the forest The other two officers enlisted the help of local retired police officer Chester K Smith, who had been a sniper during World War I, and subsequently captured Richetti Floyd remained on the run, living on fruit, traveling on foot, and quickly becoming exhausted

At least three accounts exist of the following events: one given by the FBI, one by other people in the area, and one by local law enforcement The accounts agree that, after obtaining some food at a local pool hall owned by his friend Charles Joy, Floyd hitched a ride in an East Liverpool neighborhood on October 22, 1934 He was spotted by the team of lawmen, at which point he broke from the vehicle and fled towards a treeline Local retired officer Chester Smith fired first, hitting Floyd in the right arm, knocking him to the ground At this point, the three accounts diverge; the FBI agents later attempted to claim all the credit, denying local law enforcement were even present at the shooting According to the local police account, Floyd regained his footing and continued to run, at which point the entire team opened fire, knocking him to the ground Floyd died from his wounds shortly thereafter

According to the FBI, four FBI agents, led by Purvis, and four members of the East Liverpool Police Department, led by Chief Hugh McDermott, were searching the area south of Clarkson, Ohio, in two separate cars They spotted a car move from behind a corn crib, and then move back Floyd then emerged from the car and drew a 45 caliber pistol, and the FBI agents opened fire Floyd reportedly said: "I'm done for You've hit me twice"

Years later, Chester Smith, the retired East Liverpool Police Captain and sharpshooter, described events differently in a 1979 interview for TIME magazine Smith, who was credited with shooting Floyd first, stated that he had deliberately wounded, but not killed, Floyd He added: "I knew Purvis couldn't hit him, so I dropped him with two shots from my 32 Winchester rifle" According to Smith's account, after being wounded, Floyd fell and did not regain his footing Smith then disarmed Floyd At that point, Purvis ran up and ordered: "Back away from that man I want to talk to him" Purvis questioned Floyd briefly, and after receiving curses in reply ordered agent Herman "Ed" Hollis to "Fire into him" Hollis then shot Floyd at point-blank range with a sub-machine gun, killing him The interviewer asked if there was a cover-up by the FBI, and Smith responded: "Sure was, because they didn't want it to get out that he'd been killed that way"

FBI agent Winfred E Hopton disputed Chester Smith's claim in a letter to the editors of TIME, published in the November 19, 1979, issue, in response to the Time article "Blasting a G-Man Myth" He stated that he was one of four FBI agents present when Floyd was killed, on a farm several miles from East Liverpool, Ohio According to Hopton, members of the East Liverpool police department arrived only after Floyd was already mortally wounded He also claimed that when the four agents confronted Floyd, Floyd turned to fire on them, and two of the four killed Floyd almost instantly Additionally, while Smith's account said that Herman Hollis shot the wounded Floyd on Purvis's order, Hopton claimed that Hollis was not present Hopton also stated Floyd's body was transported back to East Liverpool in Hopton's personal car

Floyd's body was embalmed and briefly viewed at the Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool, Ohio, before being sent on to Oklahoma Floyd's body was placed on public display in Sallisaw, Oklahoma His funeral was attended by between 20,000 and 40,000 people and remains the largest funeral in Oklahoma history He was buried in Akins, Oklahoma


Play media Video clips of Depression era gangsters, including Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and Machine Gun Kelly


"Pretty Boy Floyd"

In March 1939, five years after Floyd's death, Woody Guthrie, a native of Oklahoma, wrote a protest song romanticizing Floyd's life, called simply "Pretty Boy Floyd" The song has the form of a Broadside "come-all-ye" ballad opening with the lines:

If you'll gather 'round me, children, a story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an Outlaw, Oklahoma knew him well

The lyrics recount Floyd's supposed generosity to the poor, and contain the famous lines comparing foreclosing bankers to outlaws:

As through this world you travel, you'll meet some funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen
And as through your life you travel, yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw drive a family from their home

This song has been performed by many country and folk musicians and has been recorded many times:

  • Ramblin' Jack Elliott on his 1955 Woody Guthrie's Blues album
  • Bob Dylan on the Smithsonian's 1988 Folkways: A Vision Shared A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly album
  • The Byrds on their Sweetheart of the Rodeo album
  • Joan Baez on her 1962 In Concert album
  • Melanie on her album Madrugada
  • Guthrie's son Arlo Guthrie on his album Precious Friend with Pete Seeger
  • Ghost Mice on their split EP with Defiance, Ohio
  • The Duhks on their album Your Daughters & Your Sons
  • Christy Moore on his album 'Live in Dublin with Donal Lunny
  • Wall of Voodoo on the CD and cassette versions of their 1988 live album The Ugly Americans in Australia
  • James Taylor on The Cities' Sampler Vol 4: Keepsakes 1992

Floyd is additionally referred to in other popular music, including

  • "The Message", a rap by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
  • "Gentlemen of the Road", a song by Devils Brigade on their 2000 self-titled album
  • "Are They Gonna Make Us Outlaws Again" a song by James Talley which laments about economic conditions and adds, "I think I see why Pretty Boy Floyd done the things he did" Also recorded by Hazel Dickens

"Avenging Annie"

The protagonist of Andy Pratt's 1973 song "Avenging Annie" sings of her relationship with "Floyd", a "sensitive outlaw" who is a killer and thief, which leads to her having the phrase "Avenger from Oklahoma" added to her name Pratt said that he wrote his song after listening to Woody Guthrie's "The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd"


  • Pretty Boy Floyd American band a glam metal band most famous for their 1989 debut album Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz
  • Pretty Boy Floyd Canadian band a hard rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • A Bullet for Pretty Boy, a metalcore band


In John Steinbeck's 1939 novel The Grapes of Wrath, the character Ma Joad refers several times to Pretty Boy Floyd as a young man driven to a tragic fate by social injustice and the Great Depression:

“I knowed Purty Boy Floyd I knowed his ma They was good folks He was full a hell, sure, like a good boy oughta be…He done a bad thing an’ they hurt ‘im, caught ‘im an’ hurt him so he was mad, an’ the nex’ bad thing he done was mad, an’ they hurt ‘im again An’ purty soon he was mean-mad They shot at him like a varmint an’ he shot back, an’ then they run him like a coyote, an’ him a-snappin’ an’ a-snarlin’, mean as a lobo An’ he was mad He wasn’t a boy or a man no more, he was just a walkin’ chunk of mean-mad But the folks that knowed him didn’ hurt ‘im He wasn’ mad at them Finally then run him down and killed ‘im No matter what they say it in the paper how he was bad – that’s how it was”

Pretty Boy Floyd, a fictionalized account of Floyd's life by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana was published in 1995 ISBN 0671891650


Dick Tracy's most famous adversary, Flattop Jones, has many similarities to Pretty Boy Floyd Flattop claims to be a freelancer from the "Crookston Hills" parody of Cookson Hills in Oklahoma, and the comic strip references Flattop's involvement in the "Kansas City Massacre"

Floyd later appeared as a character in the 2008 comic book Pretty, Baby, Machine


  • Bob Peterson played Floyd in The FBI Story 1959
  • A film, Pretty Boy Floyd, was made in 1960 by Herbert J Leder, starring John Ericson
  • Robert Conrad played Floyd in the 1965 film Young Dillinger
  • Another film, A Bullet for Pretty Boy, was released in 1970, starring Fabian Forte
  • Floyd was played by Steve Kanaly in the 1973 film Dillinger
  • Martin Sheen took the title role in the 1974 TV movie, The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Floyd was portrayed by Bo Hopkins in the 1975 TV movie, The Kansas City Massacre
  • Floyd was portrayed by Channing Tatum in the 2009 film Public Enemies, starring Christian Bale and Johnny Depp In the film, he is falsely depicted as being killed before John Dillinger


  • Undefeated retired professional boxer Floyd Mayweather, Jr's boxing alias was 'Pretty Boy Floyd' as his first name being Floyd He would later change his boxing alias to "Money"

Video games

  • In the video game Team Fortress 2, the Scout class has a weapon named the Pretty Boy's Pocket Pistol, a short barrel holdout pistol popular at the time for easy concealment Part of the same set is a scattergun named after Baby Face Nelson and a suitcase of money named in honor of John Dillinger

See also

  • Criminal justice portal
  • Songs portal
  • Biography portal
  • George Birdwell
  • List of Depression-era outlaws


  1. ^ Library of Congress, "End of the trail for desperado Floyd", Library of Congress, 22 October 1934
  2. ^ a b Fisher, Jeffery S 1998 The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd Kent, OH: Kent State University Press ISBN 978-0-87338-650-0 
  3. ^ Pretty Boy Floyd #29078 Mugshot
  4. ^ a b c d Pretty Boy Floyd Wanted Poster June 12, 1933
  5. ^ "Officer Harland F Manes" The Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 22, 2010 
  6. ^ Criminal record card
  7. ^ "Patrolman Ralph Hiram Castner" The Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 22, 2010 
  8. ^ "Special Agent Curtis C Burke" The Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 22, 2010 
  9. ^ E Kelley at Find A Grave
  10. ^ McRae, Bernie J "Attempted Bank Robbery In Boley, Oklahoma" COAX-Net INternet Services Retrieved October 22, 2010 
  11. ^ Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd", Biographycom
  12. ^ a b c Wallis, Michael "Floyd, Charles Arthur 1904–1934" Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Oklahoma Historical Society Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  13. ^ "Detective William J Grooms, Kansas City Police Department, Missouri" Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  14. ^ "Patrolman Grant Victor Schroder, Kansas City Police Department, Missouri" Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  15. ^ "Chief of Police Otto H Reed, McAlester Police Department, Oklahoma" Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  16. ^ "Special Agent Raymond J Caffrey, United States Department of Justice – Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Government" Officer Down Memorial Page Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  17. ^ FBI 2010 Kansas City Massacre – Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd Retrieved on 09 March 2016 from }
  18. ^ Newton, Michael 2002 The Encyclopedia of Kidnappings New York: Chekmark Books p 158 ISBN 0816044872 
  19. ^ "Kansas City Massacre—Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd" Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Government Archived from the original on July 1, 2014 Retrieved February 26, 2011 
  20. ^ Burrough, Bryan 2009 Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 Penguin Books p 469 ISBN 0143115863 
  21. ^ a b "Letters, Nov 19, 1979" TIME Time Inc November 19, 1979 Archived from the original on September 12, 2012 Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  22. ^ Ingram, Dale October 18, 2009 "Family plot: Pretty Boy Floyd relative recalls his infamous uncle" Tulsa World Archived from the original on October 27, 2010 Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  23. ^ Guthrie, Woody 1947 "Pretty Boy Floyd" American Folksong p 27 Retrieved October 27, 2010 
  24. ^ Steinbeck, 1939 p 76
  25. ^ Wallis, Michael "Floyd, Charles Arthur 1904–1934" Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture Oklahoma Historical Society Retrieved October 27, 2010


  • King, Jeffrey 1998 "The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd" Atlas Books; ISBN 0-87338-582-9
  • Steinbeck, John 1939 The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck Centennial Edition 1902-2002 Penguin Books, New York ISBN 0-14-200066-3

Further reading

  • "Crime: Floyd Flushed" Time October 22, 1934 Retrieved 2013-09-04 
  • "Sister of infamous gunslinger 'Pretty Boy Floyd' recalls a kindly brother," Associated Press; May 14, 2002
  • Brown, Vivian October 31, 1934 "Outlaws Who Lived in Hillfolk Legend Were Charley Floyd's Heroes: Girl Who Won Only Interview Tells His Life Story" Kentucky New Era 
  • Geringer, Joseph "Charles Arthur Floyd: 'Pretty Boy' from Cookson Hills" CrimeLibrary 
  • McMurtry, Larry and Ossana, Diana, "Pretty Boy Floyd," Simon & Schuster; ISBN 0-671-89167-7 historical fiction
  • Michael Wallis, "Pretty Boy, the Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd" St Martin's Press, New York, 1992; ISBN 0-312-07071-3
  • Merle Clayton Union Station Massacre 1975 BM Bobbs Merrill ISBN 0-672-51899-6

External links

  • Kansas City Massacre FBI History
  • Woody Guthrie at the Wayback Machine archived October 27, 2009 Woody Guthrie pages, which in turn rely on the liner notes for Bobby Barnett, American Heroes & Western Legends, Bear Family Records BCD 16 121 AH, 1997
  • Sturgis House, East Liverpool, Ohio
  • Shootout in Bixby
  • Legendary Lawman Killed By Pretty Boy Floyd
  • Task Force led by Sheriff Kelly
  • Legendary Sheriff Tracks Down Pretty Boy Floyd, But Killed During Shootout
  • Death of Pretty Boy Floyd – Crime Library
  • Floyd, Charles Arthur – Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture
  • "Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd" Bank Robber Find a Grave January 1, 2001 
  • Charles Arthur 'Pretty Boy' Floyd Character on IMDb
  • Public Enemies in Nevada Pretty Boy Floyd in Reno, Nevada

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