George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes

George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes

Original Name George Kelly Barnes
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Death 18 Jul 1954 (aged 59)
Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas, USA
Burial Cottondale, Wise County, Texas, USA
Memorial ID 3148 · View Source
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Criminal. He is remembered as “Machine Gun” Kelly, a notorious, depression-era gangster, bank robber and kidnapper. Born as George Kelly Barnes to a wealthy family, he was a poor student with his highest grade being C+ in personal hygiene. After attending public schools, he enrolled in Mississippi State University, but soon dropped college, married at the age of nineteen years old and became a father of two sons. Supporting a family became difficult for him; he was a salesman, cab driver, and later, breaking the law as a bootlegger. After being arrested a few times, he abandoned his family, headed west, and he changed his name to George R. Kelly. After spending three years in the Federal Penitentiary for bootlegging alcohol across state lines, he married a twice-divorced and seasoned-criminal, Kathryn Thorne, in Minneapolis, Minnesota in September 1930. It was his wife who encouraged him to become involved in a life of crime, bought him a machine gun and gave him the nickname “Machine Gun” Kelly. He concentrated on running illegal alcohol and robbing banks until July 22, 1933 when Kelly and Albert Bates, a career criminal with a lengthy record, kidnapped Charles F. Urschel, one of Oklahoma’s wealthiest oil tycoons, from his home in Oklahoma City. A $200,000 ransom was paid and Urschel was returned home on July 31st. As a result of information Urschel provided the FBI regarding his kidnapping, the resulting investigation led to the arrests of Machine Gun Kelly and his wife, Kathryn; her parents, Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Shannon; their son, Armon; and Harvey Bailey, who was an escaped bank robber and also wanted for the murder of three policemen. Fifteen more persons were arrested and convicted for aiding Kelly and Bates with the planning and the execution of the kidnapping. Caught without a gun, George and Kathryn Kelly were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 17 years on Alcatraz Island in California before being transferred to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas in 1951 where he eventually died of a heart attack. His wife, Kathryn Kelly, was released from prison in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1958, moved back to Oklahoma and became a bookkeeper at a hospital using the alias “Lera Cleo Kelly.”

Bio by: Craig Johnson

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 12 Jul 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3148
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes (18 Jul 1895–18 Jul 1954), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3148, citing Cottondale Cemetery, Cottondale, Wise County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .