Thursday, October 22, 2009
By D.a. Wilkinson
EAST LIVERPOOL — Ask East Liverpool Atty. Timothy Brookes when gangster Charley Arthur Floyd died, he will immediately reply, “Oct. 22, 1934, at 4:10 p.m.”
Floyd, known by the nickname “Pretty Boy,” is still remembered here on the 75th anniversary of his death, although the romantic myths of gangsters are long gone.
Floyd was shot on the Conkle farm on Sprucevale Road between Clarkson and Calcutta in southern Columbiana County.
The East Liver- pool Historical Society will observe Floyd’s death on Nov. 5 at the East Liver- pool Country Club by looking at the police response to his appearance in the area.
Brookes said the reality is, “It’s the biggest story that ever happened here.”
For several days, the city made national headlines during the police search.
But, Brookes said, “We’re not glorifying him.”
Floyd was well-publicized before his death.
Performer Woodie Guthrie sang, “The Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” that goes, “If you gather ‘round me, children, A Story I will tell, About Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw, Oklahoma knew him well.”
In his public image, “He was a sage-brush Robin Hood,” Brookes said. Brookes said that there was a “certain aura of romance” about Floyd during the Depression.
Floyd also made the cover of Startling Detective Adventures, a magazine in the 1930’s that said there was a $4,000 reward for him dead or alive.
The reality was that it was a time of horrible violence. Billy “The Killer” Miller from Midland, Pa., killed his own brother in what was called “Hell’s Half-Acre” near East Liverpool in a dispute over a hooker.
In 1934, John Dillinger was declared Public Enemy No. 1, and was killed by authorities in July of that year.
Floyd was the second “No. 1” and was killed in October, and Baby Face Nelson was the third No. 1, who was killed in November of that year.
That was the end of the big names in crime, Brookes said.
Law enforcement wanted Floyd because of a bloody rescue attempt in Kansas City in 1933 that resulted in the machine-gun deaths of five people, four of them police officers. Floyd denied any involvement.
Adam Richetti and Floyd went to hide in Buffalo, N.Y., but decided to return to Floyd’s home and hide out in Oklahoma.
Robert Beresford, a former Columbiana County sheriff, said, “I remember some of it.”
Richetti was arrested after a gunfight with Wellsville Police Chief John Fultz.
Beresford recalled going down to city hall with his father, Harry, to see the deputized men surrounding the building in case there was an effort to free Richetti.
“I was 9,” Beresford said.
After his death, a death mask was made of Floyd. Beresford said an original mask is in The River Museum run by the Wellsville Historical Society.
Versions of Floyd’s death vary, including how many law enforcement officials fired how many shots as he ran aware from the farm.
Brookes said he goes with the “two-shot” story that lawman Chester Smith shot Floyd once in the arm and then in the chest with a rifle.
Floyd’s body was placed in the back of a car and driven to a funeral home in East Liverpool.
Robert Herron, the Columbiana County prosecutor, said that the 1980s television show “Miami Vice” briefly glamorized undercover drug agents who dealt with the, “violence and the destructive element of the criminal activity.”
Now, Herron said, the public is more aware of the effects of crime.
The glamour, he added, is not resonating with the public anymore.
The Columbiana County Sheriff’s department has a “10 most wanted” list. As of this week, five of the 10 cases are for drug offenses.
Herron said that despite the present poor economy, crime in the county has actually dropped since mid-year.