Pretty Boy Floyd
Charles Floyd was another of the depression era gangsters to draw the attention and pursuit of Melvin Purvis, who was instrumental in the deaths of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, as well as the capture of Harry Pierpont. Like many of the gangsters of the era, Floyd has been portrayed in the entertainment media both as a hardened criminal and as a victim of the times in which he lived. He was a criminal from an early age, being convicted for robbing a payroll at twenty-one, a crime for which he served more than three years in prison.
After he was paroled Floyd worked on oil rigs during the day, where he acquired the nickname which he hated for the rest of his life, and ingratiated himself with Kansas City gangsters at night. Soon he was joining them in several burglaries and bank robberies, and by 1929 he was wanted by the authorities for questioning in several crimes in the Kansas City area. In the spring of 1930 he was arrested in Akron Ohio on suspicion of killing a police officer during a robbery. Later that month he was arrested again in Toledo. Convicted of bank robbery in Ohio he was sentenced to 12 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary.
Floyd escaped from prison in Ohio and was next connected with a string of robberies and murders across the Midwest, including the murders of police officers in Ohio, Missouri, and Oklahoma. In Oklahoma Floyd frequently found shelter with farmers who faced the loss of their farms from foreclosure, and the story began to circulate that Floyd’s gang destroyed whatever mortgage records they could find when robbing banks. The story is most likely apocryphal, created by Floyd as a means of gaining support and a haven from pursuit.
In June 1933 four lawmen and prisoner Frank “Jelly” Nash were murdered as the officers prepared to transfer Nash, who was in custody. The attack was probably an attempt to release Nash from custody, and the deaths of the four lawmen gave J. Edgar Hoover the publicity he needed to arm the FBI and pursue many of the lawless gangs then roaming the Midwest. Floyd was suspected of involvement, but it has never been proven, and soon he was one such criminal immediately targeted by the FBI.
After the deaths of John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd ascended to the rank of Public Enemy Number One. Melvin Purvis soon had Floyd cornered in Ohio and on July 23 1934, Floyd was killed by FBI and local officers in the middle of a cornfield, after his car was disabled by hitting a telephone pole. Originally it was believed that Floyd had attempted to shoot it out with the authorities, later witnesses – including the man credited with shooting and wounding, but not killing Floyd – told reporters that the injured man was executed as he lay helpless on the ground.