Charles Arthur Floyd was born on this date in 1904. From a desciption of The Life and Death of Pretty Boy Floyd:
Charles Arthur Floyd, better known as Pretty Boy Floyd, was one of the last of the so-called Robin Hood outlaws in the tradition of Jesse James, Billy the Kid, and John Dillinger. He engaged in numerous bank-robbing exploits across the Midwest until federal agents and local police shot him down near East Liverpool, Ohio, on October 22, 1934–a feat which helped build the image of the modern FBI….
Neither highly intelligent nor polished, Floyd relied on his cool demeanor, shrewd cunning, and expert gun-handling ability, but he was also considered by those who knew him to be generous and honest. During the depression, many people saw banks as enemies and Floyd as a hero, and helped screen him from the police. Once he left a large contribution at an Oklahoma church–and no one reported his visit. He was known to drop in at country dances, dance with the prettiest girls, and pay the fiddler well. One story claims that he kept a rural school in fuel one winter. He attended church regularly, even during intense manhunts, and visited his father’s grave each Memorial Day, despite the risk of capture.
Court TV’s Crime Library has a multi-part biography of Charles Arthur Floyd: “Pretty Boy” from Cookson Hills.
In the end, Choc Floyd was betrayed. Not by a woman in red, as was Indiana bank robber John Dillinger; not by his own taste for blood, as was the mad-boy child “Baby Face” Nelson; not by a death wish that was Bonnie and Clyde’s. But, allegedly, by an ambitious protector of American Justice called J. Edgar Hoover who thought Floyd would be better a stepping stone to higher things if killed and not incarcerated. In short, America betrayed him when it forecast an end to its tolerance for wild oats to make way for progressiveness and modernity.
Choc, or Choctaw, was Floyd’s preferred nickname.
If you’ll gather ’round me, children,
A story I will tell
‘Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.
It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.
There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An’ his wife she overheard.
Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.
Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.
But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.
Others tell you ’bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.
It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:
Well, you say that I’m an outlaw,
You say that I’m a thief.
Here’s a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.
Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.
And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.
Lyrics as recorded by Woody Guthrie, RCA Studios, Camden, NJ, 26 Apr 1940