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Gangster Research Request

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Gangster Research


by Junior Warren

Stone County, Missouri’s Major Claim to Global Historical Fame is as “The Site Of The Last Official Public Hanging In The United States,” which is also the “Last Hanging In the State of Missouri.”

Roscoe “Red” Jackson, 36, on May 21, 1938, walked up the steps of the gallows on the Stone County Courthouse lawn. He had robbed and killed a salesman who had given him a ride.

The crime had happened in a neighboring county, but, the Missouri Law of the day stated that a “Death Sentence” had to be carried out in the county that passed the sentence. Thus, the duty to execute Jackson fell to Stone County officials.

Stone County Missouri Courthouse - August 1985 - Canon AE1-Program Photo by Junior Warren. The Last Official Public Hanging in the United States took place at the rear of the Stone County Courthouse in May 1938.

There was a board fence built around the scaffold and tickets were issued to witnesses. Still, the actual event was relatively easy for the public to witness. The 1920 Stone County Courthouse, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a structure that would allow people on the second floor to view the hanging with ease.

The actual specifics of the story written for the “History of

Ammabelle Burk, authored "Last Hanging In Missouri" on page 271 of the "History of Stone County Missouri, Volume I book published by the Stone County Historical Society. Nikon D40 Photo by Junior Warren

Ammabelle Burk, authored “Last Hanging In Missouri” on page 271 of the “History of Stone County Missouri, Volume I book published by the Stone County Historical Society. Nikon D40 Photo by Junior Warren

Stone County Missouri,” Volume I, was authored by Ammabelle Burk, my second grade school teacher at Abesville.

The actual layout of the courthouse square from the 1930s to the late 1970s would of propably made it relatively easy for anyone who was interested to find a place to view the execution.

I met Herschel Johnson, a quiet, soft spoken easy going man, who liked to smoke his pipe and wore stripped railroad overalls. An outstanding carpenter, in my childhood, I was told that Herschel Johnson is the man that built the gallows for the Red Jackson hanging.

More Hangings ?

There were other hangings in the United States, after Red Jackson, but, research indicates that these executions were usually carried out in state “Death Houses” away from the easy or accidental view of the public.

Stone County, Missouri’s unique claim to fame isn’t the sort of publicity that has Mom and Dad loading the kids into the RV for a summer vacation to Galena, Missouri.

But, the “hanging” event does raise not only “Death Penalty” and “Capital Punishment” issues, but it also brings the focus of attention on The Great Depression and America’s never ending war to understand economic issues.

While there may have been people in the “Depression” who were simply “crooked,” ;it does seem as though some Americans were pushed to the limit and turned to “crime” to make ends meet on a day to day basis.

Shock Short Search Continues

For the last couple of weeks, I have been trying to research events in the life of Leonard “Shock “ Short. I know other kids heard stories about Shock Short growing up.

I would love to get emails from these people spelling out what they were told as kids. I was told time and again Shock Short was “Stone County’s Robin Hood,” who really did use some of his loot to help neighbors in the Depression.

Family Members’ Recollections

I would hope the grandkids, great-grandkids, grand neices and grand nephews would also send me some emails with information about their famous relatives: Dewey Gilmore, Davey Gilmore, Virgil “Red” Melton, Fred Reese, Irish O’Malley, Jackson “Jack” Miller, Russell Cooper, Daniel T. “Dapper Dan” Heady, “Pretty Betty” Heady, and, of course, Leonard “Shock” Short.

Texas Ranger badge - 1962 - from the Texas Ranger Museum website. In the early 1930's, J. Edgar Hoover sought men who were proficient in the use of firearms. These Texas and Oklahoma lawmen, would be called “Hoover's Gunslingers by later authors. The interesting details of this era in FBI history is at the website: Dusty Roads Of An FBI Era.

I would also like to hear from the grandkids, great-grandkids, grand neices and grand nephews of the Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, and Oklahoma lawmen who pursued “Shock” Short and his gang.

Are there any family members of FBI agents, who pursued the gang ?

The irony is that current research indicates that there were no FBI or Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents that were actively seeking this gang, which really seems unusual for the time period.

Obvious Subjective Approach

I grew up in Stone County, so I’m inclined to give “Shock” Short the benefit of the doubt, especially based on the times that he grew up in. Plus, as a kid, he was portrayed to me as a “Robin Hood” larger than life. Also as a child, I often saw Shock’s sister Bess Short Allman, almost everytime my mother and I went to Galena. I met Congressman Dewey Short, when I was a young boy in Galena. Since I met and respected members of the Short family, I will, no doubt, be subjective in an article about Shock.

I went to military journalism school and wrote numerous articles for Uncle Sam, where the instructors and editors always drove home “a journalist must be objective.” True. But, journalist and reporters are humans and humans have emotions, which usually influence the overall “objectivity” on the issues. Unfortunately, in the Real World, even reporters, are not Mr. Spock.

The Forgotten Gangster

Jake Fleagle isn’t one of those names that leap to the forefront, when people talk about Prohibition and Depression Era Gangsters. While I don’t know of any books that have been written or movies made of his crime spree; you can find information about him.

The Forgotten Gangster Of The Depression Era seems to be Shock Short and his gang. The information is out there and Ive found some. But, even now, there are more questions than answers. Where did these men get together as a group to begin robbing banks ? Who were there contacts along the way, who helped them out in the various cities ? Who were their girlfriends ? Besides, “Pretty Betty,” did any of the rest of the men have wives ? Did they have a favorite hangout to hide from the law ? These and other questions, really keep me from getting a good night’s sleep.

It’s not fun waking up in the middle of the night and asking, “If these guys were on the lam, did they ever hookup with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker to take down a bank ?” Stone County history does record the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow having a shootout, near Reed Springs, Missouri.

Finding the information on America’s Forgotten Gangster might help to add new information to the well known gangster stories of Dillinger, Karpis, the Barker Gang and perhaps others.

Reason For Writing

What is in the Shock Short Story for Junior Warren ?

A Good Story.

I’m not trying to write a book.

I don’t have a book deal of any kind.

I don’t want to write a book – I’m too “long winded” when it comes to writing.

My Grandma DeLong told me the Shock Short Stories, when I was a kid. I would just like to write the story and post it to my blog. Maybe, then, I can finally get a good night’s sleep.

The kids of Stone County, Missouri had their own local John Dillinger, so they should have an opportunity to know the history of the man and the difficult times that he lived in. And, the Stone County Historical Society can fill in the blanks about the local boy who made history by robbing banks in the 1930s.

I ‘ll leave the intense research of the Shock Short story to other writers, authors, Missouri and American historians to dig deeper for the true trivia of history (- like did Shock have a newspaper route as a boy ?)

I leave it to the Hollywood screenwriters to look for the details to try and get Michael Mann, Dick Wolf, or Jerry Bruckheimer interested in bringing the story to the movies. The Hollywood screenwriters can try and convince Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Bruce Willis or Don Johnson that here might be another unique gangster story that could use their talents to bring the story to the silver screen.

If family members want to send me their Shock Short stories, then, please email me your stories and recollections to :

Thank you,

Junior Warren

5 Responses

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  1. Virgi. W. (Red) Melton was the son of Dr. Steve Melton. Steve was the brother of my great grandmather Green Berry Melton who was a pastor.

    Billie Marrs

    August 6, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    • S.D Melton was my great uncle, Rev Green Melton my Great GF. I would like more info on Red and ossie Melton,

      Billy (Bill) Melton

      January 20, 2013 at 9:11 PM

  2. […] Related Story from Junior Warren […]

    • REGARDING Last Man Hung in State of Mo. see below please:

      Some of the Red Jackson story details may not be not accurate. Pearl Bozarth was murdered of course by Red Jackson, however it was near Bradleyville, Mo. not Brownbranch, MO. His body was found near deads man curve close to Bradleyville. Brownbranch is another small community east of Bradleyville in Taney County.

      August Schulte was the man who found the dead body, he was wife was my teacher in school at Forsyth, where they resided later in their lives. ( August Schulte was german, and had a strong German accent. He traveled to Forsyth, the county seat to alert authorities of the body he found. My grandfather, Sheriff Bill Pumphrey loaded Schulte in a car and went to Bradleyville area, where Schulte led them to the body. At firt they were somewhat skeptical of his story, due to the fact he was new to area, basically not known and his accent made it difficult to understand his story. He was frightened beyond imagination. These details were told to me first hand by my grandfather J.R. Gideon, long before his death in 1980.

      Red Jackson was prosecuted by my grandfather J.R. Gideon , Prosecuting Attorney in Taney
      County at the time of the incident. Bozarth was familiar to merchants in Forsyth as he traveled through selling his goods from time to time. Residents noticed Bozarth had brought a “Stranger” into to Forsyth that day with him. They also noted that Jackson was wearing a pair of shoes with the heels cut out, so they would fit his feet. Some speculated he had stolen the shoes, just as he robbed Bozarth the next day after murdering him and stealing his car.

      My grandfather told me the story first hand, and showed me the magazine which published the story.. J.R. Gideon arrested Jackson in Oklahoma himself, as he and few other law enforcement agents had gone there after information that Jackson might be in that area. My grandfathr’s hand written acccount still lies in the drawer of his law desk in our home.

      The case was held in Stone County on a change of venue, I do believe. Further Circuit Judge Robert L. Gideon, brother of J. R. Gideon was the circut judge in the case as well.

      Rebecca Gideon Roberts
      8/28/2011, Forsyth, MO.

      R. Roberts

      August 29, 2011 at 12:57 AM

      • Miss Roberts,

        Thank you for taking the time to point out the differences in the accounts. I will go back over my story and recheck the facts.

        I believe the major differences that you cited were with a story that was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch Everyday Magazine that was reprinted with permission on the Hootentown website and the Missouri Department of Corrections website
        If you don’t mind, I would like to pass your email on to the St. Louis Post Dispatch and to the Missouri Department of Corrections website. The Bradleyville, instead of Brownbranch, should be an easy enough fix to change the location.

        It is interesting that the judge and the prosecuting attorney were brothers in this case.

        Based on your vivid account, I would imagine that the newspaper might want to do an interview with you. It is nice that you still have your grandfather’s handwritten account.

        While you might consider letting a photographer take a shot of the journal, I don’t think I would let a rare historical treasure like that out of my house. In today’s digital world, let the photographer get some more media cards for his camera and come back later if he wants to photograph every page for authentication.

        Even the Department of Corrections might have some questions about the overall process.

        I thank you for your comment. If you don’t mind, when I have time over the next couple of days, I ‘d like to see if your vivid account could be formatted to be used on the blog. Thus, I hope you wouldn’t mind if the reply could be reformatted into an article.

        Again, thank you for taking the time to point out the historical inaccuracies.



        August 29, 2011 at 11:00 AM

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