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Kate “Ma” Barker

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Kate “Ma” Barker Famous memorial

Original Name
Arizona Donnie Clark
Birth
Ash Grove, Greene County, Missouri, USA
Death
16 Jan 1935 (aged 61)
Ocklawaha, Marion County, Florida, USA
Burial
Welch, Craig County, Oklahoma, USA GPS-Latitude: 36.8819196, Longitude: -95.0037586
Memorial ID
View Source
Crime Figure. She was an American who gained notoriety for her alleged criminal activities during the Great Depression years of the 1920s and 1930s. Although never actually convicted of a crime, she and her sons' gang were ranked #1 on the Federal Bureau of Investigation Public Enemy list. Born Arizona Donnie Clark, her close friends knew her as "Arrie" or "Kate." She was described as a 5-foot-4-inch redhaired plump spitfire, who had a dysfunctional childhood home. Her childhood idol was Jesse James. On September 14, 1892, she married the ten-year-her-senior George E. Barker in Ash Grove, Missouri, and they spent their impoverished early married life in nearby Aurora, where their four sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, were born. About 1904, the family moved to Webb City, where the two older sons graduated from grade school. In 1915 the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and more serious criminal activity began. Her husband George, a man with little education, deserted the family about 1927, returning to Missouri to manage a gas station in Joplin. With her sons being incarcerated as early as 1921, her husband was aware yet never participated in any criminal activities. Crime peaked during the severity of those very hard times of the Depression Years. As a strong controlling matriarch, she was known as "Ma" Barker." She and her sons teamed-up with Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, a Kansas Penitentiary collaborator of Fred's, and other known criminals to form the Barker-Karpis Gang, which totaled up to twelve men. In December of 1931, Fred and Karpis killed Sheriff C.R. Kelly, after the law had recognized the two for prior robberies. The gang fled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they continued their life of crime. During their years of crime, the gang lived close together, but often committed crimes in small groups of two or three in different locations to confuse law enforcement. Continually moving from city to city, from California to Ohio to Florida to Texas to Havana, Cuba, the Barkers and their associates racked up numerous crimes ranging from murder to kidnappings to robbery to burglary, using the automobile and Tommy guns. She had expensive taste, purchasing the best of clothing, furniture and other necessities of life from the proceeds of her sons' crimes. More intelligent than her sons, she ruled them with an iron will, discouraging them from having any girlfriends or law-abiding friends, apparently planning their many crimes. Encouraging her sons' life-style led to their downfall: In 1921, for a robbery of a United States post office, her son Lloyd "Red" was sentenced for 25 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison. He was incarcerated during the years of the most violent of the crimes. After serving his sentence, he became a restaurant manager and married but was killed by his wife in 1949 in a domestic altercation with a 20-gauge shotgun. According to information provided by the United States Postal Service, her oldest son Herman died in Wichita, Kansas, on August 29, 1927 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting a policeman. Arthur served time in 1921 for killing a night watchman, James Sharrill, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while burglarizing a warehouse. He was arrested again in Chicago on January 8, 1935 for his part in the kidnaping of Edward Bremmer, a wealthy St. Paul banker and heir to Schmidt brewery, and sentenced to Alcatraz Prison, where he was killed during in an attempted prison escape in January of 1939. After the Federal Post Office robberies and two kidnappings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the case and eventually, the gang reach #1 on the FBI's Public Enemy list. When her son Authur was arrested in January of 1935, evidence was found that indicated that the other gang members were hiding in rural Marion County, Florida near Ocala. FBI Agents quickly discovered the hideout of Ma Barker and her son, Fred, and surrounded the house the morning of January 16, 1935. After being ordered to surrender, the two remaining Barkers returned gunfire and both her and her son Fred were killed in the subsequent four-hour gun battle. On October 1, 1935, when their bodies were claimed by family members, their remains were buried next to her son Herman's grave. In January of 1936 in New Orleans, Karpis was captured by the FBI, served 33 years of a life sentence before release and died in Spain in 1979. Her date of birth is possibly October 8, 1873.
Crime Figure. She was an American who gained notoriety for her alleged criminal activities during the Great Depression years of the 1920s and 1930s. Although never actually convicted of a crime, she and her sons' gang were ranked #1 on the Federal Bureau of Investigation Public Enemy list. Born Arizona Donnie Clark, her close friends knew her as "Arrie" or "Kate." She was described as a 5-foot-4-inch redhaired plump spitfire, who had a dysfunctional childhood home. Her childhood idol was Jesse James. On September 14, 1892, she married the ten-year-her-senior George E. Barker in Ash Grove, Missouri, and they spent their impoverished early married life in nearby Aurora, where their four sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, were born. About 1904, the family moved to Webb City, where the two older sons graduated from grade school. In 1915 the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and more serious criminal activity began. Her husband George, a man with little education, deserted the family about 1927, returning to Missouri to manage a gas station in Joplin. With her sons being incarcerated as early as 1921, her husband was aware yet never participated in any criminal activities. Crime peaked during the severity of those very hard times of the Depression Years. As a strong controlling matriarch, she was known as "Ma" Barker." She and her sons teamed-up with Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, a Kansas Penitentiary collaborator of Fred's, and other known criminals to form the Barker-Karpis Gang, which totaled up to twelve men. In December of 1931, Fred and Karpis killed Sheriff C.R. Kelly, after the law had recognized the two for prior robberies. The gang fled to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they continued their life of crime. During their years of crime, the gang lived close together, but often committed crimes in small groups of two or three in different locations to confuse law enforcement. Continually moving from city to city, from California to Ohio to Florida to Texas to Havana, Cuba, the Barkers and their associates racked up numerous crimes ranging from murder to kidnappings to robbery to burglary, using the automobile and Tommy guns. She had expensive taste, purchasing the best of clothing, furniture and other necessities of life from the proceeds of her sons' crimes. More intelligent than her sons, she ruled them with an iron will, discouraging them from having any girlfriends or law-abiding friends, apparently planning their many crimes. Encouraging her sons' life-style led to their downfall: In 1921, for a robbery of a United States post office, her son Lloyd "Red" was sentenced for 25 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison. He was incarcerated during the years of the most violent of the crimes. After serving his sentence, he became a restaurant manager and married but was killed by his wife in 1949 in a domestic altercation with a 20-gauge shotgun. According to information provided by the United States Postal Service, her oldest son Herman died in Wichita, Kansas, on August 29, 1927 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after shooting a policeman. Arthur served time in 1921 for killing a night watchman, James Sharrill, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while burglarizing a warehouse. He was arrested again in Chicago on January 8, 1935 for his part in the kidnaping of Edward Bremmer, a wealthy St. Paul banker and heir to Schmidt brewery, and sentenced to Alcatraz Prison, where he was killed during in an attempted prison escape in January of 1939. After the Federal Post Office robberies and two kidnappings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the case and eventually, the gang reach #1 on the FBI's Public Enemy list. When her son Authur was arrested in January of 1935, evidence was found that indicated that the other gang members were hiding in rural Marion County, Florida near Ocala. FBI Agents quickly discovered the hideout of Ma Barker and her son, Fred, and surrounded the house the morning of January 16, 1935. After being ordered to surrender, the two remaining Barkers returned gunfire and both her and her son Fred were killed in the subsequent four-hour gun battle. On October 1, 1935, when their bodies were claimed by family members, their remains were buried next to her son Herman's grave. In January of 1936 in New Orleans, Karpis was captured by the FBI, served 33 years of a life sentence before release and died in Spain in 1979. Her date of birth is possibly October 8, 1873.

Bio by: Linda Davis



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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: Apr 25, 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID:
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/54/kate-barker: accessed ), memorial page for Kate “Ma” Barker (8 Oct 1873–16 Jan 1935), Find a Grave Memorial ID 54, citing Williams Timberhill Cemetery, Welch, Craig County, Oklahoma, USA; Maintained by Find a Grave.