Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pretty Boy Floyd

Today in 1934 Pretty Boy (Charles Arthur (Choc) Floyd was shot to death outside of Wellsville, Ohio. Floyd was one of a number of gangsters in the 1920’s and 1930’s that were made popular by the news media and Hollywood. In truth Floyd was simply a robber, killer, drunk and a whore chaser.

Born in Georgia to a farming family (Walter Lee Floyd and Mamie Helena Echols Floyd) on Feb 3, 1904. The Floyds had ties to the Floyds of Eastern Shore of Virginia based on the family story of four brothers who came from Wales in the mid-1600’s. Two brothers, William and Frederick, settled in Accomack County Virginia, another brother went north and Charles Floyd settled in Georgia. I have discussed the Three or in this case Four Brother myth in genealogy before.

The family later moved to Sallisaw, Oklahoma where the Floyd family farmed and made moonshine. Floyd got his nickname of “Choc’ from a type of homemade beer made in Oklahoma called Choctaw beer, which was made from the spent mash of moonshine.

In 1924 he knocked up Ruby Hargraves (Hardgraves) and married her. They had a son named Jack Charles Dempsey Floyd. Shortly afterwards Floyd started his crime career by holding up the courier for the payroll for Kroger Grocery and Baking Company. The clerk who was held up gave the description of Floyd describing him as a pretty boy and thusly gave Floyd his best known nick name. Floyd went to jail for his crime and in 1929 Ruby divorced him. After being released from jail Floyd went back to robbing and killing.

There is some discussion on how he died in the field outside of Wellsville, Ohio. Some says he was still alive after receiving a couple of gunshot wounds and the police shot him pointblank when they walked over to him. Other says the first couple of gun wounds he received while trying to escape caused him to die. Regardless one more criminal was removed from doing harm.

If you read old newspapers from the 1930’s you will know gangsters were popular writing material. At the library in Salisbury when I look at the microfilm newspapers from that period they will go on for days about shootouts and killing done by Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd etc. Floyd’s death write up only lasted about a week but Dillinger’s death and the Lady in Red had articles written about them for several months after his July death. Matter of fact, mingled in with the October Floyd shooting in the Salisbury Times was an article about Dillinger.

Altho remarried after their divorce, Ruby Hardgraves would shack up with Floyd after his release from jail. She went thru multiple marriages and none were successful. She died on July 29, 1970 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma at age 63.

Charles Demsey Floyd died at age 74 on March 23, 1999. He was a successful businessman in Vacaville, California. He was survived by his wife, son and daughter.

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