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 Robert Franklin Stroud

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Robert Franklin Stroud

Murderer and Federal prisoner, he is best remembered as “the Birdman of Alcatraz.” Despite his portrayal as a mild mannered and humane person by Burt Lancaster in the movie “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962), he was often violent, had a fierce temper, and was difficult to control. He never repented his killings, and was kept isolated to protect other inmates from him. Born Robert Franklin Stroud in Seattle, Washington, the first child of Elizabeth and Ben Stroud. In 1908, at age 18, he left home and traveled to Cordova, Alaska, to seek his fortune, and began a relationship with Kitty O’Brien, a 36-year-old dance hall girl and prostitute. In November 1908, they moved to Juneau, Alaska. On January 18, 1909, Charlie Von Dahmer, one of Kitty’s customers, beat and raped her and left without paying. Stroud then confronted the man and killed him. He was given 12 years for manslaughter in the Puget Sound Federal Penitentiary. After assaulting a hospital orderly in September 1912, he was transferred to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he stabbed and killed a guard in the prison cafeteria. He was sentenced to death, but in 1920, President Woodrow Wilson commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole. While in Leavenworth, he found an injured sparrow in the prison yard and kept it, caring for it. Obtaining permission to have the birds, he switched to canaries, which he would sell for supplies. The warden, believing in progressive rehabilitation, furnished Stroud with cages, supplies and stationery for his aviary. Stroud would write two books, “Diseases of Canaries” and “Stroud’s Digest to the Diseases of Birds,” gaining respect for his abilities and observations in the bird field. In 1933, he married a correspondent, Della Mae Jones, by proxy, in order to remain at Leavenworth as he was creating trouble for the prison management (Kansas law forbade transfer of inmates married in Kansas). When prison authorities discovered some of his bird equipment was being used to make alcohol, he was transferred to Alcatraz Prison, where he spent the next 17 years. Alcatraz authorities forbade his keeping his birds, and while there, he wrote two more books, “Bobbye” (his autobiography), and “Looking Outward, A History of the US Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau of Prisons.” In 1959, his health failing, he was transferred to the Springfield, Missouri, Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, where he died on November 21, 1963, after 54 years of incarceration.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 996
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Robert Franklin Stroud (28 Jan 1890–21 Nov 1963), Find A Grave Memorial no. 996, citing Masonic Cemetery, Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .