Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

George "Machine Gun" Kelly

His Place in History

According to the FBI, George Machine Gun Kelly was the bank robber and kidnapping desperado who gave the federal agents their colorful nickname, G-Men. Just the sound of his name Machine Gun Kelly conjures up memories of a bygone era known as the Mid-West Crime Wave. Although the period itself lasted just a few short years, it left behind a legacy of personalities that would be etched into the annals of American criminal history forever.

The short crime-filled era produced such notorious luminaries as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Alvin Creepy Karpis, Ma Barker and the Barker Gang, Bonnie & Clyde, as well as Machine Gun Kelly. It also produced a secondary cast of characters just as successful and deadly as the headliners. Among this supporting cast was Harvey Bailey, Harry Pierpont, Frank Jelly Nash, Jimmy Keating, Tommy Holden, Verne Miller, Wilbur Underhill, Homer Van Meter, John Red Hamilton and Tommy Carroll.

The participants of the Mid-West Crime Wave gave J. Edgar Hoover the impetus to propel his fledgling Bureau of Investigation, then a small division of the U. S. Justice Department, into todays world-renowned Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition to putting this crime fighting extraordinaire on the map, the Mid-West Crime Wave allowed Hollywood to produce gut-wrenching action motion pictures of the era with the criminals being romanticized by some of the biggest names in the motion picture industry. Included among these stars are Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Shelly Winters, Robert DeNiro, Mark Harmon, Warren Oates, Martin Sheene, Mickey Rooney, and Richard Dreyfuss.

Of the headliners of the Mid-West Crime Wave, Machine Gun Kelly had the shortest career and was the first to be put away. Fortunately for Kelly, he was one of the few to survive.

Looking at the end of Machine Gun Kellys short but colorful career, we see an impressive display of the dispensing of American justice and how criminals were used to being dealt with. After executing one of the most highly publicized kidnappings in United States history, Kelly was arrested in Memphis extradited to Oklahoma City to stand trial was tried, convicted, sentenced and walked into Leavenworth federal penitentiary to begin a life sentence all in the span of just 18 days.


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