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Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd
(Rebroadcast on October 24, 2001)

October 25, 2000

Historian's Notes

Pretty Boy Floyd was one of Oklahoma's most beloved outlaws. For the poor people of Oklahoma many outlaws -- for reasons actual or imagined -- took on a Robin Hood persona. Pretty Boy Floyd was one such outlaw. For an extreme example of the outlaw/Robin Hood syndrome, listen to Woody Guthrie's song Pretty Boy Floyd.

Resources

Baird, W. D., & Goble, D. (1994). The Story of Oklahoma. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's pasts.

Of all of the outlaws who called Oklahoma home, and there were plenty, perhaps none are as well known or remembered as Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. The son of Sallisaw area sharecroppers, Pretty Boy Floyd got his start in crime in the seedy areas of Oklahoma's oil boom-towns. The outlaw's specialty soon became bank robbing, and it is estimated that during his short outlaw career he robbed more than sixty banks. The people of Sallisaw were apparently proud of their celebrity outlaw, and at one point citizens gathered in the streets to watch their own bank being robbed by the outlaw turned hero. For poor farmers Pretty Boy Floyd might have seemed more of a Robin Hood than a villain. There are many stories, perhaps more myth than truth, about the outlaw robbing banks in order to pay off farmer's debts or buying groceries for starving families.

Floyd was elusive and hard to catch, called the "hoodoo hoodlum," he had numerous family and friends that would hide him away until the coast was clear. It was only when he left Oklahoma that the Sallisaw native became vulnerable to the long arm of the law. Pretty Boy Floyd early in his career had made it onto the FBI's most wanted list, and it was in Ohio where the "G-Men" finally tracked him down. It was October 22, 1934 that the infamous Pretty Boy was gunned down in a field in East Liverpool, Ohio.

Friends and family raised the money to have his body shipped home to Sallisaw and the outlaw's funeral was one of the largest, up to that time, to take place in Oklahoma. Over 40,000 people crowded the streets of the Eastern Oklahoma town to see the famed outlaw for the last time. On an ironic note, Pretty Boy Floyd's younger brother EW Floyd became the Sheriff for Sequoyah County in 1948 and held that position for over twenty years with the campaign slogan, "He ain 't perfect but he's honest."

Whether criminal or Robin Hood, Pretty Boy Floyd was gunned down this week in 1934, the end of an outlaw era for Oklahoma...and that's what happened this week in Oklahoma history.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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