You may be wondering how “Pretty Boy” Floyd got his name. A prostitute that was enamored with him gave it to him. Charles Arthur Floyd hated the nickname and refused to answer to it. Floyd was born in 1904, left home at age seven, married at age sixteen, and started robbing shortly after. By the end of his career (at age thirty), he had robbed thirty banks and murdered ten people. Legend and song may have him turning to crime to feed his family, but his robbing and murders continued long after his wife divorced him.
In 1929, he was profiled as an undesirable – new car, expensive clothes, and no source of income – and sentenced to jail as a vagrant.
His most publicized crime occurred on the morning of June 17, 1933, when Floyd and two accomplices, committed a mass murder in front of Union Railway Station in Kansas City, Missouri. The brutal machine gunning took the lives of four peace officers and their prisoner. The killings became known as the “Kansas City Massacre.” The callousness shocked the American public into a new consciousness of the serious crime problems in the nation. These were not Robin Hoods, but sociopaths machine-gunning at a range of six feet. Floyd died sixteen months later of law enforcement gunshot wounds.
It is noteworthy that during the Kansas City Massacre the prisoner was also killed (apparently by machine gun bullets). This leads to an alternate theory: the first theory is that it was an attempt to free the prisoner; the second is that it was a “hit” arranged by the prisoner’s associates who were afraid that the prisoner would turn state’s evidence for release or a reduced sentence.
A little extra: The “Public Enemy” term was first used (in this country) on April 1930 by the Chicago Crime Commission to denounce Al Capone. In 1931, Capone was convicted and sent to Alcatraz.
J. Edger Hoover appropriated the “Public Enemy” terminology and began the FBI’s Public Enemy’s List. The first name on the FBI list (June 22, 1933) was John Dillinger, who was ambushed and killed by law enforcement officers on July 22, 1934.
A day after Dillinger’s death, (July 23, 1934) Hoover announced that “Pretty Boy” Floyd now held the crown “Public Enemy Number One.” Three months later (October 22, 1934), Floyd was shot dead by law enforcement.
One day later (October 23, 1934), Hoover announced the next batter up and “Baby Face” Nelson became Public Enemy Number One. It was a title Nelson coveted. He had been angry that Dillinger received it first. Nelson felt Dillinger unworthy and that he (Nelson) had been wronged. Nelson wore the crown for less than a month. “Baby Face” was killed by seventeen law enforcement bullets on November 22, 1934.
And so it went through the 1930’s. The list keepers finally changed it’s name to the “FBI’s Ten Most Wanted.”