Charles Arthur Floyd was born on the 3rd February, 1904 in Bartow County, Georgia, USA, but when he was 7 years old his family moved to Oklahoma. His family was poor and life was hard, leading Charlie towards a life of crime.
When he was 18 years old, he was arrested for the first time when he stole$3.50 in coins from the local post office. Three years later, he again found himself being arrested, but for a much bigger crime, a payroll robbery.
Charlie was sentenced to 5 years in prison and actually served just over 3 years. On being released, he vowed never to go back to prison!
But he did not choose to stop his life of crime. He joined up with some professional hardened criminals in the Kansas City underworld to rob many other banks. It was at this time that he picked up his nickname, which he always hated. On one robbery, the Payroll Master who had been targeted, described the three robbers to the police. His description of Charlie Floyd was ”a mere boy – a pretty boy with apple cheeks,” so from then on, he was known as ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’.
This was also the time that he acted like the ‘Robin Hood Bank Thief’. Many of his neighbours in Oklahoma were struggling farmers who had mortgages with the local banks. They would often be in the position of losing their farms to the banks as the banks wanted the land to expand the size of the farms to increase the farming yields.
When the bank officials came to seize the farms, the owners would be out on their land with shotguns, to try to stop them. This is when Charlie took it upon himself to destroy any farm mortgage deeds he found in his robberies.
With no record of a mortgage, no farm land could be taken away from its owner. He would also buy food and distribute it to the local community. These actions always assured a place for him to hide when he was being hunted by the police.
By the age of 25 years old, Charlie knew no other life than crime and there were numerous arrest warrants waiting for him. On 9th March 1929, he was finally caught and arrested in Kansas City but released.
A few weeks later, he was again arrested on suspicion of Vagrancy and Highway Robbery but somehow managed to get himself released.
But then, two days later on 8th May, Charlie was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado and again charged with vagrancy. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and a $50 fine. On his release, he went straight back to his old ways and managed to evade the police for the next few years.
He was using the alias of ‘Frank Mitchel’ but it soon became known to the authorities that Frank and Charlie were the same man. Not only the police but also the FBI were now hunting down Charlie Floyd in earnest.
In May 1930, the law caught up with him in Toledo, Ohio, and arrested him for the Sylvania, Ohio Bank Robbery. He was sentenced on 24th November 1930 to 12-15 years in the Ohio State Penitentiary Prison. Amazingly, he escaped and was back on the run.
After John Dillinger (another famous bank robber of that time) had been killed by the FBI, Charlie Floyd was now named by them as ‘Public Enemy No 1’ in 1934. The net was tightening as the FBI became more efficient in tracking down the criminals they were hunting.
On 22nd October 1934, at just 30 years old, Charlie Floyd was chased in his car by the police and the FBI. On crashing his car, he ran into a nearby corn field where he was fatally shot by his pursuers. The FBI agents carried him out of the field and he died under a nearby apple tree.
Charlie’s body was embalmed and allowed to be viewed for a short time at the Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool, Ohio. He was then sent on to Oklahoma where his coffin was laid on public display in Sallisaw, Ohio. His funeral had the largest attendance in Oklahoma history to date with between 20,000- 40,000 people, before he was buried in Akins, Oklahoma.
Although Charlie Floyd led a real life of crime, many farmers were thankful to him for not having their land re-possessed by the banks, so his life story has often been met with mixed reactions over the years. He felt he was only stealing from the ‘big boys’ and helping out the little men of his time. What do you think?
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