tv Book Discussion on The Year of Fear CSPAN October 11, 2015 8:00am-9:01am EDT
survival. america's future and the future of freedom for all the world now depend on us. speaking at omaha beach on the 40th anniversary of the d-day landings, president reagan put it this way, we will always remember, we will always be proud, we will always be prepared so we may always be free. thank you very much. >> thank you. [applause] ..
[inaudible conversations] >> book tv is on facebook, author information and talk directly during live programs. facebook.com/booktv. >> you're watching book tv on c-span2. coming up next executive director of law enforcement museum, failed kidnapping back in 1983. >> our topic for today is the year of fear.
machine gun kelly. he's an award-winning journalists and television documentary producer. he was part of editing team that launched u.s. today in 1982 and held a variety positions at the paper including senior correspondent and covered political and social issues. he served as supervising producer, usa today on tv. the museum and served as executive director. former chairman of the george
foster peabody. his journalism honors include awards from the national association of newspaper and won award. please welcome joe urshal to the national what archives. >> thank you, doug, i'm disappointed that there was no wine and when i whisky for this. had i known, i would have brought my own. i appreciate you stopping by.
ly try to refrain myself from droning on and on for too long so that i reserve some time for questions if you have any, i think we have about 45 minutes time, about 30 minutes into this if you're feeling like you really have a question you can just flag me and i'll start that part of the program. i first would like to explain how i got into the story and book, 1982 for the launch of usa today. very excited to be in washington. i was taking in all the sites, and this is 1982.
they had just used data log page. i typed in my last name, which is fairly uncommon or at least it was uncommon till the baltimore ravens drafted john urschel who is not only more famous than me, but a lot smarter. he's probably the only one in the nfl working on ph.d. anyway, when i put in my name there was one entry that popped up. this is the library of congress and the industry was charles urschel kidnapping victim. there was one book written about
it and it was called crimes paradise authentic inside story of the urschel kidnapping. intrigued i called it up and sat down read it cover to cover. it was the most remarkable story. i mean, it read like a novel. it had had more twists and turns in it that you can possibly imagine and i was flabbergasted because i never heard of this guy. basically i had not heard of the urschels really. after i read the book -- you know, i called up my dad and said, i just read this incredible book about charles urschel oil millionary in texas.
are we related to him? he said, no we're not. like any good son i set out to prove my father wrong and embarked on some geneolical research, but i never did find a connection. there was no connection really that i could find within the united states, if there is any, connection it dates back to which is now germany. with that, i decided, it's still a good story and i began collecting string on it over the last 30 years or so and -- and the more i learned about it the better the story got.
it's an incredible story about the most, one of the most remarkable kidnappings in american history. the largest manhunt in the nation up until that time. the manhunt covered 16 states, 20,000 miles. it resulted in sensational trial that was covered daily by press around the world and recorded on motion picture cameras and shown in movie theaters week after week. part of the sensational nature resulted in federal trial banding camera for the next probably 50 years. and even now they are used on experimental basis. it launched the fbi and resulted with the name of g-men.
the worst of the worst. the passage of the federal crime bill of 1934 which made kidnapping a federal crime punishable by death and greatly expanded the powers of the fbi. all of this was made possible by the remarkable cooperation of charles urschel kidnap victim. the story takes place 1933, the year of fear, primarily because the year contains this incredible events that are taking place. in 1933, we are three years into the great depression. it's probably the worst year, worst economic consequences are being played across the nation as the economy sinks further and
further. in the year since 1929 crash the market had lost 90% of its value. unemployment for non-farm workers was up to 40%. in some cities it stretched as high as 80%. thousands of banks were closed. loss of tax revenues and cuts in the social services that did exist, workers, police and teachers were layed on and went on paid, thousands of schools closed, millions of students just dropped out. at the same time dust storms were beginning to kick off in the southwest, later what we call dust bowl. it would start in new mexico, oklahoma or texas and they would blow so hard that the people that live in the area would have
to do things like drape their child's beds and carriages just to prevent from coming in and choking them to death. it would kill livestock in the fields. it would blow so hard that would turn red, unable to see the skyline. you can see some of the effects of the -- what these storms would do on local farms and while the dust storms were kicking up and the economy was sanking, a sense of beginning through bound in the country. four law enforcement officers in
kansas city union stags and robbers and thieves were operating with impunity along what they could the the corridor which steched -- stretched from dallas texas to certify -- serasota. we now think that these assassination attempt was directed at fdr but at the time fdr thought the assassination attempt was successful and surmack was indeed the victim because surmack unseated mayor of chicago. he had formed alliance with al
capone and the way he was going to do allow himself with another guy who were operating on the north side of the city and he literally had hired some of men to be police officers and body guards and they had made an assassination attempt just weeks earlier on frank who was capone's chief lieutenant. so while this is all going on prohibition is about to end. and the elimination of prohibition eliminates one of the criminal empire most luck -- lucative source of money. with the money isn't as good as it used to be and prohibition coming to an end, they're looking for other ways to make money.
what happens in the three years since the market failure, it's incredible spade of kidnappings across the country, estimated 2,000 kidnappings had occurred between 1930 and 1933, charles kidnapping case being the most famous. so with no money left in the banks and their sideline business of running liquor drawing out the folks operating out west were looking ways to make money and kidnapping wealthy individuals seemed to be a good way to the it. the way the operations would work is they would snatch wealthy individual, hide him out across the state or county line where state police, county sheriffs should not chase them, they would lose authority once they left money ci --
municipality and we would release them unless they go to authorities, they would kill you and all the members of your family as well. the kid napping was working well up until 1933 and charles urschel people in hollywood were driving in armored plaited limousine limousines, companies were issuing kidnapping insurance and while all of this is going on fdr takes office and announce that is we have nothing to fear but fear itself.
at the same time, hitler was appointed chancellor in germany. so in the mist of this incredible scenario, george kelly and glamorous wife decide that they are going to kidnap the richest oil man in the southwest. and with an almost remarkable lack of planning, kelly and his partner albert bates burst into the urschel one hot july evening when they are playing bridge with their friends, walter jared and his wife. kelly with machine gun and bates with a .45.
making all kinds of threats they demand that urschel reveal himself, which he doesn't do and so does walter. so as kelley are getting beligerant begans to stand up at which point urschel. forget it, we will take both of you. they put them in the car and speed up into the night. a couple miles out of town they realize that they could probably identify which one was urschel by emptying the wallet. they take all of jared's money and take off with urschel. they take them out in farm
outside of dallas, texas, owned by katherine's father-in-law. sad, browndown farm with a few animals where boss lives with his wife and son, and son's wife. they stick urschel. they blindfold him. blindfolded for the entire ride. they covered ears so basically for days she was blindened and death at various times of the day, but nevertheless he's the kind of guy who does not part with his money very willingly and he's bound and determine if
he comes out he will get and get his money ride. he knows how long the car ride took but he realizes that they are going to a route designed to confuse him, but this is a guy who has been working his whole career for a fellow name tom slick, the king of the wildcatters, he and urschel had been finding oil all over oklahoma and texas. urschel grew up on the farm in the midwest realizing that he's on a farm. he begins to count animals, how many milking cows, he collects information from the people about holding what all buildings
are around, how big the farm is, what the postman's name, who the local prostitute is. while he is doing this in the course of eight days, at 9:30 in the morning and 5:30 at night a plane is passing over in. he puts all that in the data bank where he leaves fingerprints all over where he possibly can. his wife collected money for ransom and paid it off. at the point they're about to release urschel. katherine kelly who was the tougher of the two characters insisted that they have to kill him. goaj, of course, is saying, no, we can't kill them, if we kill
them, they will come out and we won't get anybody else because our threats will be empty, their plan was to kidnap five more people, ransom at $200,000 each, 8-10 million in contemporary dollars and retire as millionaire in juárez, méxico. everybody has their dreams, right? [laughter] >> so that plan is eventually floor and motion pictures cameras and photographers as well as local police.
urschel comes in and immediately debriefed by fbi agent known as gus jones who just listens to data dump and having started out telling him that finding these kidnappers would be like finding a needle in a hay -- hay stack. they go up in the air, they fly the route that the airline that they've identified had flown. they look down urschel seven of what they think the farm looks like and identify a farm and put together a rating party. urschel exists that he would be the lead and in the middle of
the night they burst in or early in the morning they burst in and they arrest the shannons and a fellow name bailey staying at the farm hiding out from a state prison in kansas. bailey is an incredible character in this boom that i'm just so fortunate stumbling the story, bailey was considered the most successful bank robber in american history. the guy who basically invented the modern form of bank robbing, which involves a lot of careful planning, determining what the best escape routes, having multiple backup plans, pig youring out when there's the most money in the bank by studying the local economy and
county tax records, what the police activity is like, how far away the police station is, what kind of cars the police have, if they have any, and basically if harvey was planning your bank robbery he was going to go well and nobody was going to do to do it, part of mo is he would never admit to having robbed a bank or trying to take credit for anything. as a result he successfully robbed the denver mint, the lincoln national bank of so much money that the bank failed the next day. he did so well in the 20's that by the late 20's he retired from the bank robbing business and opened a series of gas stations and car washes in chicago, but lost all of his money in the market crash and had to go back to the business
that he knew so well. so he had worked with george kelly on a number of bank jobs and, in fact, had lent george a thousand dollars when george was low on funds. so after he heard about the kid napping, he went down to the farm in wise county to collect the money that george outed -- owed him and he happened to be cot. even though george and katherine had fled the scene, they had gone up to st. paul to launder their money, the fbi agent still score an important victory by pulling bailey, he's not only a bank robber but escaped
prisoner. the raid is considered a huge success. and it arrives just in time for hoover who in 1933 was not yet directer of the fbi, in fact, he was barely holding onto his job. he had been the bureau of investigation as it was called then had been given the job of soling the linberg kidnapping and had done a fairly miserable job. when fdr took office his first choice for attorney general was a guy name thomas walsh, a senator from wyoming, had a long and bad history with h -- hoove
hoover. both from wyoming. these two were trying to launch an investigation of the harding investigation and uncover some of the scandals that later evolved. hoover's job was -- he tapped his phone, he read his mail and tried to trap him in hotel women to get him incriminate evidence on him. after that announcement walsh about to get the miserable hoover as soon as he got to town. unfortunately walsh was 72 year's old he went down to miami
and got married and when the train stopped to north carolina, walsh's wife woke up but he did not, subsequently the attorney general is homer cummings, fdr trust, cummings takes over the justice department and he's one of fdr's real go-getters, the way he can raise profile of the justice department, referred to as the department of easy virtue, he decides that he's going to ship this place up and prosecute a war on crime, a war on this a war on that and a war of everything.
he wanted to use the fbi to break up basically the criminal ally and anything else he could do. so jay edgar is under a lot of pressure at this time to bring in some big score and it looks like the machine gun kelly case could be the one. there's charles, the other leading character in the story. charles as i said, was a farm kid, grew up, enlisted in the army during first world war, and when he got out was bound and determined that the last thing was he was going to do was farming, it's just too hard work and it didn't really pay off as good as he was hoping so he strikes out for oklahoma and decides to try to make his fortune in the oil business.
he's got a real head for numbers. he's got a great memory as you well know and he hooks up with tom slick, who rapidly becomes the king of the wildcatters and they make their fortunes together. unfortunately right at the peak of their oil business, tom slick at age 47 kind of your class-type a behavior guy has a massive heart attack and dies, charles marries his widow, which is even bigger than the tom slick company, and of course, that generates a lot of headlines in the paper about how rich these folks are and what their oil holdings entail. all of this was interesting
reading that got katherine kelly thinking about kidnapping urschel. urschel and slick had no love for the business even more reason to despise them. charles goes into an alliance with hoover, this is the home where the kid napping occurs and hoover prosecutes a nationwide search for katherine and george. the fbi had been given the sole responsibility for chasing kidnappers across state lines. and so they were really the only
organization that could bring this to fruition. but there were two problems that they still had, one was the fact that they were not an armed police force. they were not trained in weapons. most of them were lawyers and accountants who would help prosecute criminal investigation. so hoover looked around his agencies across the country to try to find people who would be skilled enough to go up against machine gunners and shotgun and bank robbers and murderers and what not and he discovers athat he has fewer than 12 out of 336. so he puts those guys together and puts this investigation in order and it's run by gus jones that worked in texas, kind of a legendary law man.
this is a document produced by the -- by the bureau after the successful prosecution of the case which they use to further demonstrate their need for expanded powers. you can see all of the cities where they suspected the kellies might be and where they had tracked them and, in fact, they had been in most of those places other than the ones on the west coast. one of the things they that i had was close the boarders because they thought they would be leaving. not a bad assumption. another document produced by the fbi which just sort of mapped out prominent members of society who had been kidnapped. this is the famous melvin special agent in charge of the chicago office.
bringing great fame to the bureau, however on the urschel case he let kelly slip through his fingers in chicago. the fbi had discovered that kelly was using a place called the michigan tavern as postal address and a place where he would go and hang out and enjoy special protection from the local police, and assigned purvis to try and snatch him but literally purvis just forgot to do it, by the time he remembered he was supposed to do it they chose two agents but they never went inside. kelly was inside arranging to get an automobile and this did not make the director happy and
purvis left the agency a few years after all of the great events were occurring. so ultimately they chaseed -- after about six to seven weeks on the road, they find kelly in memphis, tennessee and successfully arrest him. there he is walking out of the courthouse in chains guarded by machine gunners, the fbi acquired quite an arsenal and they deployed them very prominently during the trial and afterward. the interesting thing about memphis that kelly started out in memphis, tennessee. he was the child of upper-middle-class parents. pretty smart kid but he did not enjoy a really good relationship
with his father, who he hated. and when he caught his father in a tryst with another woman, he basically blackmailed him. if you give me my family car and x amount of money and he used to hop across to arkansas, it was a wet state, tennessee was dry and started liquor-running business as a young -- >> kelly has been pistol
windshield whipped when tried to advance by an fbi agent. you can maybe see the knot on the forehead from one of the wounds he sustained. and this is alcatrast where he ended up. cummings and hoover had content for the federal prison system, which they thought was too fluid and too easy to escape from, too corrupted, whatever, and so they wanted to create a prison that nobody could escape from that only the worst of the worst would be sent to and there would be no attempt of rehabilitation, that would be solely for confinement, they would be cut out from the outside world, they
wouldn't be allowed to talk to one another. it was a new special kind of held for prisoners that seemed to be the worst of the nation. al capone, various mid western murderers and thieves. george kelly ends up in the introductory and managed to get out in the 50's. bailey ends up with george in alcatraz, he is later released into state prison and charles by that point had sort of softened on the whole affair and he went to fdr and hoover and said,
harvey bailey had nothing to do with the kid napping, we ought to let him out, so he agrees to probation for harvey and sets him up as a -- missouri with a job as a cabinet maker and gets him a room at the ymca where he lived out the rest of his life without committing another crime the urschels end up intact. they spent the rest of their lives, you know, running their oil business, they set up a number of foundations, biochemical research in texas, but they didn't feel that comfortable in texas, the wild west anymore, spent a lot of time traveling through europe collecting art and lived happily
ever after. but part of what charles experienced made him detest publicity of any kind, so he instructed the rest of his family and anybody that would listen to him that you should never get any publicity whatsoever no matter what you've done and how proud you are of it, you should remain as concealed as possible otherwise bad things can happen to you. and that attitude was not only passed onto his children but to his grandchildren and the grandchildren of everybody involved in this case even to the point where i got around to talk to them, the only way that i think that i got any cooperation whatsoever from them
was because the same last name and the fact that at some point we are probably related and -- and charles' granddaughter lives in texas, i probably shouldn't tell you that, was specially helpful ultimately, and we enjoyed some good chats and emails together and she shared with me most of the things that she had collected about the case. the other interesting thing about this particular case and hoover, was that while hoover was maybe not the best law man in the country at the time, he did understand public relations and publicity, and he was just beside himself with hollywood because hollywood at the time was glamourizing gangsters
basically. the number one movie in the country was scarface starting james, a character based on al capone, i almost said al pacino. hoover knew if he was going to be successful with his with agents, law enforcement agency, he was going to have to create them as heros, he didn't want to gangsters to be the heros anymore. he wanted to agents to be heros. he personally went to james and complained and said, you ought to star in something that makes a hero out of a law enforcement officer and basically at the time there was a big kind of public revulsion at the gangster movies that were growing increasingly violent, if you can
believe that. so the hollywood fearing that there would be some kind of sensorship by the government creating a rating system and one of the things that they outlaw is gangster movies. they try to get the entire industry not to produce them, but hover manages to get one caveat put into the code, and that's if you're going to make a gangster movie, you have to have an fbi agent in it, and if you're going to have an fbi agent in your movie hoover has to approve the script. [laughter] >> in 1935g-men comes out with james cagny as fbi agent who sols kidnapping and three or four movies after that with the
same kind of scenario and same kind of fbi hero in it. nevertheless, hoover did many more things, of course, he had publicist in house. unfortunately, george kelly didn't have a publicity department on his behalf and the stories that hoover put out about kelly took hold. basically hoover wanted to make machine gun kelly the worst villain possible so that catching him and prosecuting him would be all the greater.
you can read about it. one of the stories he spread was that when he finally cornered machine gun kelly in memphis that he dropped the weapon and coward in the corner, don't shoot g-men, don't shoot. it didn't happen like that. if you want to know how it happened, you can read the book. anyway, that became the brand of the fbi, they're g-men, they are to this day. the legend of the machine kelly continues to grow and roger coreman decides to make a movie about him in 1958 and cast unknown actor as charles braunson in the lead and making machine gun kelly a machine gunner and kidnapper and just
basically living under the thumb of domineering wife. there are still songs written about him, movies made about him, james taylor has a song basically on that scenario, but the case really in addition to all of these other things that it spawn, it also proved the importance of branding and manipulation. hoover's reputation, of course, soured in the first ten years he was in office, and you probably know began to sour as the years went on, but nevertheless, he did create the fbi as a basically sort of the first national police force and one of the most successful and modern at the time, and became the envy
of the world, so i think i have drone on long enough and if you would like to ask a question, since we are on c-span, please come to the microphone and speak clearly into it. yes, sir. >> two things, how much ransom did urschel pay? the other question is how did machine gun kelly get his name, did he actually kill anybody? >> the ransom was -- they took the ransom money out of the oil companies account, $200,000, and the second part of your question was how did he get his reputation. curiously it was created by jay edgar hoover and katherine
kelly. george was a student of harvey bailey and you have to stay under the rad al -- radar. once you hurt somebody that draws the law. george was trying to prosecute the business in that fashion. in fact, he didn't like machine guns. he was kind of afraid of them, he looked to rob a bank with concealed 38. one of the charming irish men, go into the bank, very concerned about image and fashion statements, he walked in showed the .38 and asked the ladies to just empty the drawers and i'll be out of here with no problem, but katherine was -- that wasn't good enough for katherine,
katherine wanted to be married to the most famous criminal in all america, so she started working on his reputation, he buys him a machine at a pawnshop in fort worth and then start spreading stories about imall over fort worth, dallas, you shoe, we've been down to the farm and george has been working on his skills and he can shoots walnuts or ride the name on the side with his gun and you'll be hearing a lot more about it. so the police officers down there who kind had their eye on kelly and would hang around the bars or speak easies, they started picking up on all these stuffs that they were hearing about him and when they first started chasing him and they
discovered that it was george kelly, the police in texas set up this profile and said that he was a murderer and expert machine gunner, and so that got on the wanted poster and got in the press and one thing lead to another and suddenly we have psychopathic machine gun kelly. he's not known to have killed anybody. he did admit to shooting one guard, wounding him in the shoulder during bank robbery, but that's about all. he did participate in bank robbies where people did get shot and killed, but when they would form bank-robbing gangs, they would pull different people for different skill sets and they didn't really recruit kelly in because of his viciousness and skills with a weapon, they
really liked him for his skills behind the wheel. he had been a runner and bootlegger for almost 20 years. he loved cars, he had 1932, cadillac that he had customize by al capone mechanic. you could never catch him once he was behind the wheel. yes, sir. >> this is before the second amendment, what were gun control like at this time and could regular people get a machine gun? >> yes. i'm not an expert on weaponry or the laws about them but i do believe there were no laws individuals from purchasing any kind of gun they wanted. in fact, the crime bill that
this case spawn did include language that restricted automatic weapons like machine guns. it was specifically to get at the machine guns that were used in the kansas city massacre at union station and crimes that were committed by george kelly. >> actually i think it it was te following year that outlawed some machine guns as a result of the stuff that had been going on. >> right. >> yeah, one question and a comment. i understand that george kelly when he was in alcatraz was one of the few actual penetants that he wrote letters to urschel and maybe some other people that he
victimized saying nothing could be worst than this, i'll bare the guilt for the rest of my life. is that true? >> yup. he wrote not only the letter you're referring to which is considered to be one of the best descriptions of what life is behind bars that's ever been pinned. that's in the book if you would like to purchase the copy and read the whole thing to yourself. he was a constant letter writers as a lot of prisoners. he was particularly well versed, he was smart, referred to greek methodology in some of the letters and he wrote hundreds of letters to katherine that are just love letter that is will
almost bring you to tears, if not laughter. it was true, when he was incarcerated at alcatraz they had a proven psychologists that did evaluation and he was extremely intelligent, had a little competition going with albert bates who was also in alcatraz as to who could do better and would do anything he could with sort of deal with isolation of prison life. >> beg your pardon -- james cagny played a similar role also based on capone in the public enemy. >> you're right. >> it's a great talk. >> you got me there. you know, you're a film history. >> thank you.
>> there are a lot of twists and turns. it seems like a lot of the topics that people that howard hughes knew, do you have a howard hughes angle? >> i should look for one. do u -- do you think there is one? >> was there any involvement making scarface? >> that, i don't know. >> he knew tom slim and hoover, hollywood sensorship. in texas and oil he had to know urschel. >> yeah, urschel was an active democrat and he was looking for -- he had sent embassaries to washington to some regulation to the oil business to help protect the wildcatters who were being
driven out of business by the big oil companies. anything else? well, thank y'all very much for coming. [applause] >> folks, just a reminder there's a book sale so we'll met you up there in a couple of minutes. >> and i would be happy to sign the books with any kind of verbiage you would like. [laughter] [inaudible conversations]
>> every weekend book tv officers programming focused on nonfiction books. keep on watching and watch any of the past programs on booktv.org. >> written books to introduce themselves to voters and promote views on issues. here is a look at some of the candidates' books. new book reply all, jeb bush during his time as florida governor. ben carson argues that a better understanding of the constitution is necessary to solve america's most controversial issues. his book is called a more perfect union. against the tide, lincoln, recounts time serving as republican in the senate. and former secretary of state hillary clinton looks back on her time serving in the obama
administration, h book is called hard choices. in a time for truth, texas governor ted cruz recounts journey from a cuban immigrant son to the u.s. senate. fiorina, former ceo of hewlett-packard she shares difficulties and triumphs. in my story he details a childhood, career in the air force. former arkansas mike mucabee takes his take on guns, grits and gravy. ohio governor calls traditional american values in stand for something. more presidential hopefuls with books include democratic candidates and harvard law school in the usa is lesterland.
pataki is also writing for president, he looked back on the path to governorship. kentucky senator rand paul, more bipartisanship in his latest book take a stand. in american dreams he outlines plans to advance opportunity. bernie sanders another candidate for democratic party as president. and in blue collar conservatives rick sanitorium argues the republican party must focus on the working class in order to retake the white house. donald trump has written best sellers, outlines policies if elected president.
former virginia webb writes in i heard my country calling. vice president joe biden may announce candidacy and promises to keep, and governor chris christie and former governors have announced candidacies but have not released books. book tv has covered many of the candidates and you can watch them on the website at booktv.org. ..