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"Machine Gun" Kelly's notoriety blossomed quickly, and the press wasn't shy about wildly exaggerating his past, as shown in the first newspaper article below, with such statements that he was "America's Number One desperado" or that he was sought for a series of "abductions, bank holdups and massacres."

(For some folks today, Machine Gun Kelly is a singer and would-be rapper from Cleveland, whose real name is Richard Colson Baker. Ah, the things you find out online.)

The kidnapping of Charles Urschel was Kelly's first successful attempt to collect ransom. Twice before he had abducted people, but let them go empty-handed. The first time, he accepted a promissory note, which, of course, wasn't honored.

Little about this gangster was what it may have seemed to people who read about him.

His name wasn't Kelly. He was born George Francis Barnes Jr., though several sources will tell you his middle name was Kelly, not Francis.

He didn't particularly like his machine gun. It was given to him as a present by his second wife, Kathryn, who purchased it second-hand for $25. Kathryn was an interesting, often irritating character. She's the one who gave him his nickname. She also did her best to promote Kelly — her fourth husband — as some kind of bad-ass outlaw, which he most definitely wasn't.

Therefore it was not surprising he couldn't handle his machine gun particularly well. Kathryn encouraged a tale about her husband being able to spell his name by firing his machine gun into a wall, and that he had perfected this talent as a soldier during the Great War (World War One). Trouble was, Kelly didn't serve during the war, and the Thompson sub machine gun wasn't used in combat. (Another outlaw, Verne Miller, also was reputed to be able to spell his name with a machine gun. In Miller's case, that may have been true.)

ANYWAY, 1933 was not a time to be considered a bad-ass outlaw. That often dragged your name into crimes committed by other people. Kelly had a catchy nickname, but he entered the year as a little known bootlegger-turned-bank robber. He had nothing to do with any massacres, especially not the one in Kansas City that shocked the nation, although Kelly knew and sometimes had associated with people involved in that shoot-out, including Frank Nash, the ill-fated prisoner being transported by the lawmen who were killed or wounded. Kelly also knew Verne Miller, who organized the unsuccessful attempt to free Nash from his captors. (Nash was the first man killed that day.)

But when Kelly kidnapped millionaire Charles Urschel, himself a fascinating character, the man recently nicknamed "Machine Gun" became a major league outlaw, though it took the United States Bureau of Investigation (later to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation) about five weeks to listen to a Fort Worth, Texas, detective named Ed Weatherford, who early on had a hunch that Kelly was one of the men responsible. (J. Edgar Hoover's agents had assumed it was the work of some better known outlaw.) Kelly and his wife, Kathryn, sometimes visited her mother, who was married to a rancher in Paradise, Texas, and their flashy lifestyle aroused suspicion among rural Texans, and word spread to Weatherford.

Kathryn, who was very close to her mother, may have resented Kelly — that's how she usually referred to him— for dragging her mother and her stepfather into the Urschel case, and once they were arrested, she was willing to tell police everything they wanted to know — if they would agree to drop charges against her mother. (They wouldn't.)

Kelly was pretty much an easy-going guy, or he would have resented Kathryn, because her concern for her mother led her to do a few things that helped federal agents locate their final hiding place, which was in Memphis, where Kelly/Barnes had spent much of his early life.

Syracuse Journal, September 26, 1933
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (INS) — George “Machine Gun” Kelly, America’s Number One desperado, sought for a series of abductions, bank holdups and massacres that have terrorized the nation, fell into the clutches of the law today.

The man who had sent the organized forces of the law of the 48 states and the federal government on the greatest manhunt in history, taunting his pursuers with scornful, threatening letters, surrendered meekly to Department of Justice agents who trapped him in a Memphis hideout.

Reinforced by local police, heavily-armed with machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and tear gas bombs, the federal operators surprised Kelly, his wife, Kathryn, and two men companions in a residence here shortly before dawn.

The officers forced their way into the home, quickly arrested the owner, J. R. Tichenor, and his brother-in-law, S. E. Travis, who were asleep in the front room. The noise aroused Kelly, who was sleeping with his wife in another room.

Kelly, his mane of black hair bleached a brilliant yellow, struggled from his bed with a .45 caliber pistol in his hand, then stumbled into the room where the officers were waiting. Kelly quickly realized his was clearly out gunned by the arresting officers.

“Stick ‘em up, Kelly,” the officers barked, and the gangster grinned sheepishly, hesitated a moment, and then let his gun slip from his hand.

The gangster’s titian-haired wife, clad in a flaming negligee, followed him into the room, and clinged to her husband before the officers removed them from the house and placed them in automobiles for a trip to jail.

A day later there was another arrest and a statement from the head of the Dallas office of the United States Department of Justice that more than $70,000 of the ransom paid for the release of Charles Urschel had been found.

Syracuse Journal, September 27, 1933
DALLAS, Texas (INS) — Federal Department of Justice agents last night seized $73,250 of currency on the farm of Cass Coleman, near Coleman, Texas, Fred Blake, head of the local DOJ, said today. Coleman was arrested. He is an uncle of Machine Gun Kelly’s wife. The money was found buried in a cotton patch.

The money has been definitely identified as part of the $200,000 ransom in the Charles Urschel kidnapping case, said Blake.

Approximately $6,000 of the ransom money had previously been located. A total of $700 was found on the person of Harvey Bailey, on trial for the Urschel kidnapping. A similar amount was found on Albert Bates, and $5,000 had been circulated in St. Paul, Minnesota, allegedly by Kelly through his contact man.

Meanwhile, a trial already was underway in Oklahoma City involving ten other persons arrested in connection with the Urschel case, including Kathryn Kelly's mother and stepfather.

Syracuse Journal, September 27, 1933
By JAMES L. KILGALLEN
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his wife, Kathryn Kelly, who are under arrest in Memphis, Tennessee, will be kept away from Oklahoma City while the Urschel kidnapping trial is in progress, federal authorities announced today.

Federal officials do not want the Kellys here until the current trial is concluded. Kelly’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin October 9 in federal court.

Ten persons are currently being tried, including Mrs. Kelly’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. R. B. Shannon. It was Kathryn Kelly’s desire to help her mother than led to her arrest. She enlisted the aid of Luther W. Arnold of Ardmore, Oklahoma, to contact a lawyer in Oklahoma City for the purpose of defending her mother.

It was through Arnold that federal authorities learned of the Kellys’ hideout in Memphis.

Actually, it was through Arnold's 12-year-old daughter, Geralene, that authorities learned the address of the Kelly's Memphis hideout. Often misidentified as Geraldine Arnold, the girl was abducted by Kathryn Kelly, who claimed she was actually borrowing her. Geralene was forced to accompany the Kellys on what must have been a wild trip from Texas to Memphis, via Chicago. More on Geralene later.

When the first trial concluded, seven of the ten defendants were found guilty.

Syracuse American, October 1, 1933
By JAMES L. KILGALLEN
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — The United States government yesterday dealt a knockout blow to the kidnapping menace when a jury in federal court found the notorious outlaws Harvey J. Bailey and Albert J. Bates and five others guilty of conspiracy in connection with the $200,000 abduction of Charles F. Urschel, Oklahoma City oil millionaire.

Found guilty with Bailey and Bates were Mr. and Mrs. R. G. Shannon and Shannon’s 22-year-old son, Armon, upon whose ranch near Paradise, Texas, Urschel was held prisoner, and Edward “Barney” Berman and Clifford Skelly of St. Paul, who were accused of having helped pass $5,500 of the ransom money in Minneapolis

Three defendants from St. Paul were found not guilty. They are Sam Kronick, Sam Kozbrerg and Isadore Blumenfield.

The government will “mop up” the case by bringing George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his titian-haired wife, Kathryn, here from Memphis, Tennessee, where they are under arrest.

On October 7, Harvey Bailey and Albert Bates were sentenced to life imprisonment. So were R. G. "Boss" Shannon and his wife, Ora, who was Kathryn Kelly's mother. The Shannon's 22-year-old son, Armon, received a break from Judge Edgar S. Vaught, who suspended a 10-year sentence in federal prison, allowing the young man to remain free on parole. (Armon had been very talkative after police arrested him.)

Edward “Barney” Berman and Clifford Skelly, the St. Paul defendants found guilty of having passed $5,000 of the ransom money were both sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary.

This was the first prosecution under the federal kidnapping act, which was passed by Congress as a result of the Charles Lindbergh Jr. abduction a year earlier.

Harvey Bailey, a long-time bank robber, actually had nothing to do with the Urschel kidnapping. He had escaped from the Kansas State Penitentiary on May 30, and had gone to the ranch in Paradise, Texas, to see Kelly, who wasn't there when Bailey arrived. At least three reasons have been given for Bailey's visit — (1) he thought it would be a safe place to hide; (2) he was returning a machine gun he'd borrowed from Kelly; (3) he wanted to collect money Kelly owed him.

Reason number two, I'm sure, is bogus, In 2004's "Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34," author Bryan Burrough, who seems to have done exhaustive research, says Bailey arrived at the ranch with a Colt .45 pistol and a Winchester rifle.

"Boss" Shannon, who was at the ranch, gave Bailey a place to sleep and $640 of the thousand dollars Kelly owed the visitor. Unfortunately for Bailey, the money Shannon gave him was from the Urschel ransom. When police arrived the next morning and arrested everyone at the ranch, Bailey was charged, thanks to the money, with being involved in the kidnapping. (Oh, and that place to sleep, according to Burrough, was an improvised cot atop two sawhorses.)

Next it was time for the Kellys to be tried, and, not surprisingly, it was Mrs. Kelly who became the star of the show.

Buffalo Courier-Express, October 10, 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma, October 9 (AP) — A swiftly drawn picture of Charles F. Urschel’s $200,000 kidnapping was put before another federal jury today — trying, this time, the swaggering George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his quick-tempered wife, Kathryn.

Delayed not a bit by a morning row at the federal building elevator, when Kathryn slapped Federal Agent J. C. White and Agent White in turn pounded Kelly’s head with a pistol butt, the trial rushed along at three times the speed of the first, when seven persons were convicted and four given life terms in prison.

Kelly’s mocking grin was in evidence, despite a bloody lump on his head, and he roared with laughter when prosecutor Herbert K. Hyde once demanded sharply of a reluctant witness:

“Who’s been talking to you since the first trial?”

The witness, eighteen-year-old Gay Coleman, cousin of Kathryn, describing Kelly’s stop at a Stratford (Oklahoma) farm the day of the kidnapping last July 22, recalled he heard Kelly say, “There’s more apt to be a kidnapping in Oklahoma City.”

By the time the first day of the trial had ended, almost half the government’s testimony had been submitted, including Urschel’s story of his nine-day abduction. It took but two hours to select a jury of four farmers and eight business men.

Kathryn’s tears flowed as her aged grandmother, Mrs. T. M. Coleman, who lives on the farm near Stratford, testified from her wheel chair she had driven Kelly and Kathryn from her home early Sunday morning, July 23, “because they told me that they had a kidnapped man there.”

“I told her to get that man away from there or I would scream and wake up the whole countryside,” Mrs. Coleman added.

Earlier, the slender defendant had been pert and smiled often, tossing kisses at her fifteen-year-old daughter by a previous marriage, Pauline Frye, summoned as a government witness. For a time, she even smiled coyly at White, whom she had slapped, addressed him as “Mr. White,” and showed him the ring she wore.

Late in the day came testimony of the four bridge players who were rudely interrupted on the sun porch of the big Urschel townhouse by the two machine-gunners who seized the oil millionaire.

The witnesses were Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jarrett and Mr. and Mrs. Urschel. All pointed accusing fingers at Kelly. He scowled.

Mrs. Jarrett’s voice betrayed her indignation as she volunteered to cross the courtroom to point out Kelly.

“I’ll be very glad to do it,” she said.

Urschel’s own story followed. He recounted, as he did at the first trial, how he had been taken away, his eyes taped securely shut, “so I couldn’t tell daylight from darkness,” and moved to the R. G. Shannon farm in Wise County, Texas, where he was held until ransomed for $200,000.

Then came the testimony of John G. Catlett, Tulsa oil man and friend of Urschel, who received the first letter sent by the kidnappers in establishing channels for payment of the ransom.

The pre-trial melee occurred when Agent White gave Mrs. Kelly a slight shove as she paused to kiss her father, J. E. Brooks, before entering the Federal Building elevator.

She slapped White sharply and Kelly raised his manacled hands over the officer’s head.

White, grasping his pistol by the barrel, brought it down several times over Kelly’s head as Kathryn screamed, “Don’t! Don’t!”

Other guards surrounded the couple and rushed them into the elevator and up to the tower courtroom.

His head swelling under his straw-colored dyed hair, Kelly raged and muttered, “I didn’t do a thing and he hit me with a pistol.”

The Kellys soon were smiling again, however.

Declaring “two figures” played the lead in the kidnapping of last July, District Attorney Herbert K. Hyde pointed to the couple in his opening statement and shouted:

“They sit in this courtroom now. Their names are George and Kathryn Kelly.”

Then he told the jury the government will prove that Kelly, a machine gun swinging from under one arm, was the scowling companion of Albert Bates the night Urschel was kidnapped from his home here; that Kelly guarded the millionaire captive on the Shannon ranch near Paradise, Texas, and that Kelly took the $200,000 ransom money from E. E. Kirkpatrick, Urschel's friend, on a Kansas City street.

Kathryn, he said, will enter the picture at Stratford, Oklahoma, at the T. M. Coleman farm home, “where you will hear her saying the day of the kidnapping: ‘We’re going to make some money,’ and where you will hear Kelly saying: ‘There’s going to be a kidnapping tonight.’ ”

Hyde swung into the threats which marked the first Urschel trial and its seven convictions, saying “Kathryn Kelly wrote two or three letters to the Urschel family, threatening them with violence and destruction.

“And we’ll have ten or fifteen witnesses to testify that in this very courtroom last week, George Kelly stopped in front of Mr. Urschel and said: 'You big sap, you’ll get yours!' "

Without pausing, he assailed John V. Roberts, Mrs. Kelly’s attorney, declaring:

“We’ll show Roberts made the statement to Kathryn Kelly, in the jail, that Verne Miller, a fugitive from justice and an outlaw, and Wilbur Underhill, an outlaw and a fugitive, ‘will take care of Arnold if he testifies in this case.’ ”

He referred to Luther Arnold, who, while the Kellys were fleeing, engaged Roberts as an attorney on behalf of Mrs. Kelly and her mother, Mrs. R. G. Shannon, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in the case.

Both Arnold and his twelve-year-old daughter, Geraldine (Geralene), who was used as a “blind” by the Kellys when they fled to Memphis and who told of their hiding place there, are expected to testify.

Prosecutors said they hoped to send the case to the jury by Thursday.

“They’ve done everything but admit their guilt in open court,” said Joseph B. Keenan, the assistant attorney general directing the government staff. “The thing to do now is to hurry this trial through.”

 

Syracuse Journal, October 11, 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — Garbed in black and her face pale and drawn, Kathryn Kelly, the slim, red-haired wife of George “Machine Gun” Kelly, went on the witness stand in federal court today and in an effort to save herself from a long prison term, put the blame for the $200,000 kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel on her gangster husband.

She told the jury she implored Kelly to “release Mr. Urschel,” but her husband told her to “mind your own business.”

 

Syracuse Journal, October 12. 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY (INS) — George “Machine Gun” Kelly and his flashy, red-haired wife, Kathryn Kelly, were found guilty of the $200,000 kidnapping of Charles F. Urschel by a jury in federal court today and were almost immediately sentenced by Judge Edgar S. Vaught to life imprisonment.

 

Dansville (NY) Breeze, October 13. 1933
OKLAHOMA CITY — Prison "for the rest of your lives" was the government's answer to the arrogant George Kelly and Kathryn, his wife, last of the Urschel kidnapping principals to be branded guilty.

Convicted at the conclusion of a swift, three-day trial, the machine gun hoodlum and his modish, 30-year-old wife with surly mien, heard Federal Judge Edgar S. Vaught pronounce the maximum sentence possible under the "Lindbergh Law."

Six of the nine persons convicted in the two Urschel conspiracy trials are now under life sentence, and two of them — Harvey Bailey and Albert Bates — already are behind Leavenworth Prison's red brick walls.

Mrs. Ora Shannon, mother of Kathryn, and her stepfather, R. G. Shannon, are the other two sentenced to life imprisonment.

District Attorney Herbert K. Hyde, 35-year-old chief prosecutor, said he would ask the court to join him in an "unqualified recommendation" that no clemency be shown at any time to any of those convicted.

"My Pekingese dog would have gotten a life sentence in that court," muttered Kathryn Kelly, whisked away with her husband to the county jail to await transfer to prison within a few days.

Kelly made brash statements after he was sentenced, claiming he'd soon break out of prison, but he proved to be a model prisoner at Alcatraz and Leavenworth. In both places he was ridiculed by other inmates who called him "Pop Gun" Kelly. He died in Leavenworth of heart failure on July 18, 1954.

He has been portrayed a few times in films, most notably by Charles Bronson in 1958"s "Machine Gun Kelly," which, like almost all such movies, was laughably fictional.

Albert Bates died in prison in 1948, at the age of 54, while Harvey Bailey, who was bounced from Leavenworth to Alcatraz, back to Leavenworth, and finally to a federal prison in Seagoville, Texas, lived long enough to be freed — in 1964. He died in 1979. He was 91 years old.

Kathryn Kelly and her mother remained in prison until 1958. Kathryn became a bookkeeper at an Oklahoma City nursing home, her mother, Ora, became a nurse at the same facility. Ora died in 1980, Kathryn passed away in 1985.

Back to Geralene Arnold, who's been very much forgotten over the years. The Kellys were dazed and confused in the aftermath of the kidnapping, and, at one point, Kelly took off on his own, and Kathryn had no idea where he had gone, but suspected he might be off somewhere with a former girl friend.

However, she was more concerned with helping her mother, who'd been arrested when lawmen showed up at the Shannon ranch. On her own, Kathryn picked up three hitchhikers — Luther Arnold, his wife, Flossie Mae (yes, Flossie Mae), and their 12-year-old daughter, Geralene.

At first, Kathryn might simply have felt safer appearing less like a fugitive and more like a member of a family on the road, but when she struck up a conversation with Luther Arnold, she learned he and his family were Dust Bowl refugees. He was a farmer without a farm, and he called Ardmore, Oklahoma, his home.

Kathryn's mother would go on trial in Oklahoma City, so she asked Arnold if he knew a good Oklahoma lawyer. He said he did. Long story short, Kathryn gave him some money, arranged for him too be loaned a car, and sent him off to hire that lawyer. Arnold ran into a complication or two, but got the job done, and, according to Bryan Burrough in his book, "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of The FBI, 1933-34," managed along the way to have a lot of fun on the money Kathryn had given him.

Meanwhile, Kathryn left Flossie Mae behind in Texas, and took Geralene with her to find Kelly, and the girl remained with her until Kathryn and Kelly reached Memphis several days and at least one narrow escape later.

In Memphis, the Kellys visited Langford Ramsey, the brother of Kelly's first wife, Geneva. There Kelly also saw his two sons, Bruce and George. Ramsey was a lawyer, which would indicate he was a man of some intelligence, but when the truth was revealed by Kelly, Ramsey claimed he had no idea his former brother-in-law was a wanted outlaw.

Okay, fair enough. His sister had married a guy named Barnes, and the outlaw called "Machine Gun" Kelly was so obscure until recently there were no photos of him available until he was arrested, by which time his dark brown hair had been turned yellow.

But then Ramsey agreed to do something that was borderline crazy — he drove to Coleman, Texas, about an hour south of Paradise, to retrieve the ransom money the Kellys had buried on a ranch owned by Kathryn's uncle. Ramsey's guide to the ranch was Geralene Arnold, whose brain apparently, was the prototype for a GPS system.

She got Ramsey to the ranch, but when they arrived, he was advised the area was crawling with federal agents. So he telegraphed Kelly with the bad news, and put Geralene on a train to Oklahoma City, where she was reunited with her parents, who were being held there by other federal agents. By then, J. Edgar Hoover's people were fairly certain the Kellys were either headed for Memphis or were already there, but it was Geralene who gave them the street address where the Kellys could be found.

There was a $15,000 reward offered for information leading to the capture of the Kellys, but the man in charge of the money refused to give it to Geralene Arnold, claiming federal officers would have located the fugitives on their own. The girl, aided by two Dallas lawyers and one in Oklahoma City, took the matter to court and was awarded $4,000 of the reward money.

As was common in those days, a theatrical agent talked Geralene into signing a contract to go on stage in the vaudeville circuit and tell audiences about her experiences with the Kellys, but she was a no-show at her first scheduled performance, and apparently decided vaudeville wasn't for her.

According to a page at courtneyfamily.org, Geralene married Clifford Albert Courtney about six years later, and had two sons. But when Clifford Courtney died in 1972, he left behind a second wife and four children. Geralene's mother, Flossie Mae, died in 1950 near Lakeport, California; Luther Arnold, who had an alias (Jess Akers), died in 1941 in Reno. He was described as an itinerant Native American farmer.

Other Kelly bits:

George Barnes Jr. was a rarity among outlaws — he attended college. Briefly. At Mississippi A&M, now Mississippi State. He dropped out and married Geneva Ramsey, whose family had money enough, according to Bryan Burrough, to set up their son-in-law in two businesses — a parking garage and a dairy farm. But Barnes preferred bootlegging, which led to bank robbing, and, finally, kidnapping. For most of Kelly's career, he was a member of gangs led by someone else. It was Kathryn who changed his name and his image, and spurred him on to bigger things, though her efforts in this regard may be over-rated.

On October 12, 1933, the day she and her husband were found guilty of kidnapping Charles F. Urschel, Kathryn Kelly had a byline on part one of a two-part story syndicated by Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA). It was her version of her life, as told to Lee Hills, an Oklahoma News staff writer and NEA correspondent. (The Oklahoma News was an Oklahoma City newspaper, 1906-39.)

Mrs. Kelly's first column began with a bang: "If I had it to do over again, I would have killed George Kelly long before the Urschel kidnapping. That would have saved my mother and my stepfather and my baby from all this trouble."

By "my baby," she was referring to 13-year-old Pauline "Polly" Frye, child of her first marriage, to Lonnie Frye of Asher, Oklahoma. (Not to be confused with major league infielder Lonny Frey, who played in the 1930s and '40s.) Polly attended her mother's trial in Oklahoma City.

Kathryn married Frye soon after her family moved to Asher from Coleman, Texas. She was 14, he was 17. The marriage lasted about a year.

Her newspaper story skipped over her second marriage, an even briefer union to A. L. "Allie" Brewer, who operated a movie theater, perhaps in Asher, perhaps in Wanette, Oklahoma.

After the split, she moved to Oklahoma City, then Fort Worth, where she met Charles Thorne, a rancher, who, after a stormy three-year marriage wound up dead of a gunshot wound. Kathryn said it was suicide, others speculated she murdered him. Police believed her version, though it was reported that earlier in the day she had stopped at a gas station, where someone asked where she was going, and she supposedly replied, "I'm going home to kill Charlie Thorne."

Her newspaper story portrayed Thorne as an abusive man who drank too much, hinting that Thorne didn't think he was good enough for her, so he shot himself in the head. According to Marilyn Horton Taylor's account of the Kellys, Kathryn inherited Thorne's estate worth between $10,000 and $15,000.

Somewhere along the line — part one of Kathryn's story says it happened in San Antonio, Ms. Taylor says Tulsa — Mrs. Thorne hooked up with a married bootlegger called "Little Stevie" Stephens, who was associated with a small-time hoodlum named George Kelly, who was sneaking around with Mrs. Stephens. It was in 1926 or 1927 when Kathryn Thorne met Kelly, but serious romance didn't begin until 1930, when they were married.

A few paragraphs after saying she would have killed Kelly, Kathryn wrote, "Still, I think a lot of him, and I'd do almost anything I could for him ..." At this point she pulls what I call "a Donald Trump." That is, she doesn't express her feelings, but instead writes, "He still loves me. He worships me. I'm the only thing in his life." I imagine his two sons appreciated her saying that.

She and Kelly lived in Minneapolis and Chicago, but she says she wanted to settle down on a farm. As far as her "baby" was concerned, Polly was mostly raised by her grandmother, Ora, who'd divorced Kathryn's father and married "Boss" Shannon, living on his ranch in Paradise, Texas.

Kathryn actually was named Cleo May when she was born to Ora and James Brooks in 1904 in ... well, Kathryn claimed Tupelo, Mississippi, as her birthplace; most sources says Saltillo, Mississippi, which is just a stone's throw from Tupelo.

The point of Kathryn's first story was a final plea for her mother, who'd recently been given a life sentence for her involvement in the Urschel kidnapping: "My mother never has done anything wrong in her life. She didn’t get justice. That’s what burns me up.”

Part two was published two days later. In it, Kathryn attempted to convince readers she was a good-hearted person, skipping over her own life of crime, which included shoplifting and robbery before she married Kelly.

She was upset with the Arnold family for informing on her and testifying against her and Kelly. She claimed she gave that family the only break they’d ever had.

“And look what they did to me! Arnold had only three cents in his pocket when I found them. They didn’t have any decent clothes, said they hadn’t had much to eat for days. I bought them good clothes and fed them.

“I took good care of Geralene while she was with me. Jerry’s a swell kid. She’s crazy about me. She told me she wanted to come with me and live. I told her she couldn’t do that, because her parents wouldn’t let her. ‘Oh, they’ll give me to you,’ she told me.”

And while she said "Money never meant anything to me," she criticized Kelly for burying $73,000 of the ransom money on her uncle's farm. It must have galled both of them that federal agents got to the money before they could. If only they had taken all of it with them ...

Finally, Bryan Burrough ("Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34") wasn't the first person to expose a favorite "Machine Gun" Kelly anecdote as a myth, but he may be the first to provide an alternate explanation.

For years it was reported that when confronted by the federal agents who arrested him, Kelly pleaded, "Don't shoot, G-men! Don't shoot!", thus providing a new nickname for J. Edgar Hoover's agents, who, incidentally, did not have the power to make arrests until the Urschel kidnapping case.

Whether it was a journalist's invention, or a story concocted by Hoover, it wasn't Kelly who coined the expression.

According to Burrough, while researching his book, he came upon a telephone interview federal agent William Rorer gave a reporter from the Chicago American hours after the Kellys were captured.

“Kelly’s wife cried like a baby," Rorer told the reporter. "She put her arms around [Kelly] and said: ‘Honey, I guess it’s all up for us. The ‘G’ men won’t ever give us a break."

That's only fitting. After all, Kathryn supposedly created the rest of the "Machine Gun" Kelly legend, so why not this?

And, in view of her two newspaper stories, I guess it also was fitting that while Kathryn was serving time at Terminal Island Federal Prison in San Pedro, California, when housed both male and female inmates, she was an editor of the prison newspaper, the Terminal Island Gull.

 

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