George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes


George “Machine Gun Kelly” Barnes

Original Name George Kelly Barnes
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 18 Jul 1954 (aged 54)
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 after his mother died in November 1917. On October 7, 1919, George, age 19, married Geneva Ramsey, age 18, and they had two sons: George Ramsey (later Trimbach) 1920-1989 and Robert Owen (later Trimbach) 1925-2010. His new father-in-law hired him as a commissary clerk in his construction company. When he died in 1922 in a dynamite explosion, the company was managed by one of Ramsey's five sons and George was out of a job. George tried his hand as a used car salesman, goat farmer, cab driver, and later, breaking the law as a bootlegger. Geneva begged him to stop rum-running, but it was easy fast money and it supported his sons. But she gave him an ultimatum. George chose to leave his family. They divorced in 1926. In March 1927, George was arrested for bootlegging, served 90 days in New Mexico Penitentiary and after he got out of prison, he chose to leave his family and change his name to George R. Kelly. He was arrested for smuggling liquor into an Indian Reservation in Tulsa OK and sentenced to three years in the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary In Kansas. He was paroled after 2 years. He met Lera Cleo Brooks Thorne who had been married three times. Her third husband's suicide in 1927 was suspicious (some say she shot him so she would be free to marry George) in September 1930. She changed her name to Kathryn before her first marriage in 1919. She had an established life of crime with bootleggers and robbing banks before she met Kelly. She gave him the nickname "Machine Gun" Kelly and promoted it every chance she could. 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 investigation led to the arrests of Machine Gun Kelly and his wife, Kathryn; her mother Ora and her stepfather "Boss" Shannon; their son, Armon; and Harvey Bailey, who was an escaped bank robber who happened to be at the ranch for an overnight visit. He was wanted for the murder of three policemen. Fifteen more persons were arrested and convicted for helping Kelly and Bates with the planning and the execution of the kidnapping. George and Kathryn Kelly were arrested, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment. George Kelly spent 17 years on Alcatraz Island in California before being transferred back to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas in 1951 where he died quietly of a heart attack on his 54th birthday, July 18, 1954. His wife, Kathryn Kelly, was released from prison in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1958 and moved back to Oklahoma. She changed her name to Lera Cleo Brooks Kelly and worked as a bookkeeper at the Oklahoma County Poor Farm, a hospital and nursing home. She died on May 28, 1985.

Bio by: Anne D


George B. Kelley 1954

Gravesite Details

Section 2 NW quarter, Row 11, grave 1

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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 1900–18 Jul 1954), Find a Grave Memorial ID 3148, citing Cottondale Cemetery, Cottondale, Wise County, Texas, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .