Have you ever been on the FBI’s Public Enemy Number 1 list? No? Well can you guess a few famous names that have been? Keep reading to find out some of the famous names that have been on that list and what got them there…
The FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation has become an indispensable part of the law enforcement agencies. They target many investigations across America and even into International territories. All in defense of our country of course. This is going to be an interesting post loaded with facts about the first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover and some of the Public Enemies that have been on the FBI’s top list.
A Little History about the FBI
The FBI has offices in sixty different foreign countries and is one of thrity-two different law enforcement agencies within the United States. Just to give you an idea of the massive amount of investigations that are held by this agency, they receive 34,000 new fingerprint cards on a daily basis!
The FBI was originally started to investigate white collar crimes. The agency was made up of many accountants, lawyers and responsible members of the community. Until thing expanded to include the interstate crime sprees occurring in the Midwest, most had never fired a gun. But during the early 1930s, they soon had to learn with the new work load that had been put on them.
About J. Edgar Hoover
Many of you probably know him as the man that waged war against the gangsters! And although that is true, there are many other things you may not know about him. J. Edgar Hoover actually started his career as a clerk in the Justice Department and worked his way into the Bureau of Investigation. By 1924 he had become director of the Bureau of Investigation and was an instrumental part of forming what we know today as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
He remained the director for 48 years, and you can imagine all the goodies he had compiled on some very important people during that time. All the agents of the bureau reported only to Hoover, the Attorney General nor the President of the United States had any say over his agency.
During his tenure Hoover had collected extensive files on tens of thousands of Americans, the ones which he believed were shady characters. As you can imagine, all this information he’d collected over the years gave him great control and power over politicians, the media and even Hollywood. No one knew just exactly what information Hoover had, so this is the reason he was in office so long. Everyone was afraid to fire him because he may have some compromising files or photos on them. He actually retained office through eight presidencies.
There wasn’t a single piece of media that concerned the FBI that was not approved by Hoover. He even had authority to dismiss certain actors from appearing in any media projects that included his agency. This abusive use of power is what led to present-day directors being limited to only a 10 year term in office.
The Public Enemy Line Up
Many of the violent gangs that were active during the 1930s caused the FBI to produce a special list of wanted individuals. This list was called the Public Enemies list. Many famous and notorious gangsters have made it to the top of that list at one time or another. Let’s take a look…
I’m sure many of you have heard of the notorious John Dillinger, he was the FBI’s first Public Enemy Number 1. Dillinger is mostly known as a fierce bank robber and would sometimes case prospective banks by impersonating an alarm company. Yep, he’d go into the bank acting as an alarm system salesman which would give him the opportunity to access their vault and security system. Pretty smart, although this day and age, it’s almost impossible to get away with a scam like this. Everyone is hip to all the little tricks and verifying credentials is probably a common practice of banks these days.
Here’s an extreme move, when Dillinger’s gang needed more weapons, the best place to go
would be the police station. It’s crazy, but they would actually go to the police station and rob them of their weapons! For those of you that have seen Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp played the part of John Dillinger and during one scene he used a gun he’d made out of wood to escape from jail. This is a true depiction of an actual account. The real John Dillinger actually did this, and used the sheriff’s brand new car as a get away.
Just like in the movie, John Dillinger was shot dead outside a Chicago movie theatre in 1934. He had just watched the gangster movie “Manhattan Melodrama” starring Clark Gable. So this was the end of the FBI’s hunt for John Dillinger.
After the death of John Dillinger, a new upcoming popularity with a gangster profile was Baby Face Nelson. Nelson now became the FBI’s new Public Enemy Number 1. He holds the record for killing the most federal law enforcement agents in history. Not a very good thing to be proud of, but we have to remember the likes of who we’re talking about here.
Popular fiction has led us to believe that Ma Baker was a notorious gangster. But she actually wasn’t, it was her son that was the gangster, she was merely an accomplice. Regardless, in 1935 Ma was killed in a shootout with the FBI at a home in Florida. They say there was a tommy gun found in her hands after the shootout, but rumor has it the FBI put it there so it wouldn’t seem as though they killed an innocent old lady.
Machine Gun Kelly
George Kelly Barnes, also known as Machine Gun Kelly, acquired his nickname due to his favored weapon. Yep, you guessed it, the Thompson machine gun. He’s famous for kidnapping the famous oil tycoon Charles Urschel in 1933. His gang profited by $200,000 in ransom. This was the largest sum of money ever paid for a ransom up until that time. Although many other gangsters had gone out in a hail of bullets with the FBI, Kelly surrendered peacefully in 1933. Rumors say that Kelly and his girlfriend were the first to refer to the FBI as G-Men, using that term as they were being arrested.
Pretty Boy Floyd
Next we have Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd. He received his nickname after a bank teller referred to him as a “pretty boy with apple cheeks.” Floyd is most famous for his involvement in the Kansas City Massacre. This is where he and his accomplices gunned down four lawmen and a felon that was being transported. This all went down at the Union Railway Station in Kansas City, Missouri in 1933.
Bonnie and Clyde
Of course this wouldn’t be complete without Bonnie and Clyde. Bonnie Parker was actually an honor roll student in high school until meeting Clyde Barrow. Bonnie was married at the age of 15, but it was a short two year marriage. Although she never saw her husband again after that, she never received a legal divorce and never removed her wedding ring.
Clyde Barrow’s crime spree started in a Texas prison when he killed his cell mate. Clyde was evidently a lazy man which led him to chop off his own toe while in prison. He believed this would make him exempt from work detail! Anyway, during Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree, they are believed to of killed thirteen people and kidnapping several others. Most of the men they killed were law enforcement, this seems to be a trend among these Public Enemies. They also broke into several armories in order to obtain more weapons and ammo. They were normally a heavily armed couple, but there’s still some controversy whether or not Bonnie actually ever fired a gun at anyone.
So it appears that even though the FBI may of not been totally legit in their dealings with people, it’s quite evident they had their work cut out for them. Law enforcement has definitely come a long way in the last 80 years. I suppose the criminals have as well. Seemingly crimes have increased in numbers, but many are much more petty and carry less weight as far as making history.