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George 'Machine Gun' Kelly

aka George Barnes

<!-- google_ad_section_start --> Born to a peasent family living in Memphis, Tennessee, his first Memphis home was located at 2098 Cowden where he lived from 1910-1914. While he was a student at Central High between 1914-1917, Barnes began selling bootleg liquor. He later flunked out of Mississippi State University, while pursuing a degree in agriculture, to pursue Geneva Ramsey, and then a life of crime. The couple married, had two children, but not wanting to rely on his family's money, struggled to make ends meet. His father was also not inclined to help George because of what had happened at Mississippi State, and his dislike of Geneva. Money strained the relationship, and the couple soon separated. This was during prohibition, and George found work with a bootlegger. After a short time, he had several run-ins with the local Memphis police, he decided to leave town and head west, with a new girlfriend.

Childhood home

To protect his family and escape law enforcement officers, he changed his name to George R. Kelly. He continued to commit smaller crimes and bootlegging. He was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for smuggling liquor onto an Indian Reservation in 1928, and sentenced for three years to Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas. Sent to Leavenworth on February 11, 1928, he was a model inmate and was released early.

His last crime activity proved disastrous when he kidnapped a wealthy Oklahoma City resident, Charles F. Urschel and his friend Walter R. Jarrett. Urschel, having been blindfolded, made sure to foil his kidnappers by noting all possible evidence of his experience such as carefully noting background sounds, counting footsteps and leaving fingerprints on every surface in reach. This in turn proved invaluable for the FBI in their investigation.

An investigation conducted at Memphis disclosed that the Kellys were living at the residence of J.C. Tichenor. Special Agents from Birmingham, Alabama, were immediately dispatched to Memphis, where, in the early morning hours of September 26, 1933, a raid was conducted. George and Kathryn Kelly were taken into custody by FBI Agents and Memphis police. Caught without a weapon, George Kelly supposedly cried, "Don't shoot, G-Men! Don't shoot, G-Men!" as he surrendered to FBI Agents. The term, which had applied to all federal investigators, became synonymous with FBI Agents. In actuality, George Kelly surrendered with the words "I give up, ya got me!" The "G-Men" phrase was made up by J. Edgar Hoover's P.R. agents. The couple was immediately removed to Oklahoma City.

Kelly's hideout at 1408 Rayner Street. Photo by Thomas R Machnitzki.

On October 12, 1933, George and Kathryn Kelly were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Machine Gun Kelly spent his remaining 21 years in prison. During his time at Alcatraz he got the nickname "Pop Gun Kelly." This was in reference, according to a former prisoner, to the fact that Kelly was a model prisoner and was nowhere near the tough, brutal gangster his wife made him out to be. He spent 17 years on Alcatraz, working in the prison industries, and was quietly transferred back to Leavenworth in 1951. He died of a heart attack at Leavenworth Federal Prison, Kansas on July 18, 1954, his 59th birthday. He is buried at Cottondale Texas Cemetery with a small headstone marked "George B. Kelley 1954".[5]

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