Arthur Barker

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Arthur R. Barker
Arthur Barker.jpg
Arthur "Doc" Barker
Born (1899-04-06)April 6, 1899
Aurora, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 13, 1939(1939-01-13) (aged 39)
Alcatraz
Other names Doc, "Claude Dade", Bob Barker
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment[1][2]
Criminal status Deceased
Parents George Elias and Kate "Ma" Barker
Conviction(s) Murder[1]
Kidnapping[2]

Arthur R. Barker (June 4, 1899 – January 13, 1939) was an American criminal, the son of Ma Barker and a member of the Barker-Karpis gang, founded by his brother Fred Barker and Alvin Karpis. Arthur, generally known as "Doc", was typically called on for violent action, while Fred and Karpis planned the gang's crimes. He was arrested and convicted of kidnapping in 1935. Sent to Alcatraz in 1936, he was killed three years later while attempting to escape from the rock.

Doc is described by one writer as "a dimwit and a drunk", who was little more than a thug.[3] However, fellow Alcatraz inmate Henri Young said of him that he was "determined and ruthless, and that once he started on anything nothing could stop him but death."

Early life[edit]

Arthur Barker, better known as alias Doc Barker, was born in Aurora, Missouri to George Elias Barker and Arizona "Ma" Barker née Clark. Through the 1920s and 1930s, Barker, with his brothers Herman, Lloyd and Fred, committed numerous crimes such as theft, robbery and murder.

On July 18, 1918 Doc Barker was arrested for stealing a car on the highway and was sent to serve prison time in Joplin, Missouri. On February 19, 1920 Doc escaped from Joplin prison. Using the pseudonym "Claude Dade" he was involved in robberies in Oklahoma. He was arrested and imprisoned in Oklahoma State Prison under the name "Bob Barker" from January to June 1921.

On August 25, 1921, night watchman Thomas Sherill was murdered by burglars at a hospital construction site in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On January 14, 1922 Doc Barker was convicted of this murder and sentenced to a life term at McAlester prison in Oklahoma. He always maintained his innocence of this crime. He was paroled ten years later, on September 10,1932. [4] [5]

Reunion with the Barker Gang[edit]

After his release Doc joined up with his brother Fred and Karpis. By this time, Arthur was described as a morose, heavy drinking man and a "stone eyed" killer.[3] According to one woman associated with the gang he had little interest in female company and was awkward around women, something she attributed to his institutionalized life in prison.[3]

On December 16, 1932 Doc Barker participated in the robbery of the Third Northwestern Bank in Minneapolis. Two policemen were killed in that robbery and a civilian was murdered by Doc's brother Fred during the getaway. On August 30, 1933 the Barker-Karpis Gang robbed a payroll at Stockyards National Bank of South St. Paul. Doc shot dead policeman Leo Pavlak in cold blood, after had already surrendered.

Doc also helped the gang kidnap two wealthy St. Paul, Minnesota men: William Hamm in June 1933 and Edward Bremer in January, 1934. Doc personally grabbed both Hamm and Bremer, intimidating them with his brutality.[6] However, it was Doc who made a slip-up that led to the capture of the gang. He removed a glove while refilling the car from a petrol can before returning the second victim after the ransom was paid. The discarded can was recovered and Doc's fingerprint was identified.[7]

Arrest[edit]

Unaware of this, the Barkers and Karpis attempted to launder the money they had extorted, convinced (correctly) that the FBI had recorded the serial numbers. They briefly relocated to Cuba, then moved to Florida, where they rented a house near Lake Weir. Doc devised a plan for a new robbery, but other members of the gang rejected the idea, believing that they should keep a low profile. Bored, Doc left for Chicago.

In Chicago he met Byron Bolton, a former associate of Fred Goetz. But Doc was identified and was arrested in the street by agents. When asked "Where's your gun?"; Doc replied, "Home—and ain't that a hell of a place for it?".[8] He was interviewed by Melvin Purvis, who later wrote, "he sat in a chair, jaw clenched, looking straight ahead. He was not impressive-looking. Only his eyes told the story of an innate savagery".[8] Bolton was also taken into custody. While Doc refused to speak, Bolton revealed that the other members of the gang were in Florida. A map found in Doc's room provided more detail. Shortly afterwards, Fred and Ma Barker were located and killed in a shootut.

He was charged with the kidnapping of Bremer. He attempted to intimidate Bremer to stop his testmony, telling him "I have plenty of contacts out there who would get you".[9] Nevertheless. he was convicted of the kidnapping.[10]

Alcatraz and death[edit]

Barker's prison file with mugshot.

Along with Karpis, Doc was sent to Alcatraz.[2] Barker became Alcatraz inmate 268-AZ in 1936.

On January 13, 1939 Doc attempted to escape from Alcatraz with Dale Stamphill, Henri Young and Rufus McCain.[11] Young later said of Doc, "he was one of America's most dangerous men. I knew, however, that he was determined and ruthless, and that once he started on anything nothing could stop him but death. I couldn't think of anyone else I'd rather have with me on a break from Alcatraz."[11]

The four men had been placed in the segregation unit for troublesome prisoners. Barker and his associates sawed through four sets of prison bars, concealing the daily damage with makeshift putty. When they finally broke through, they climbed over the high walls of the prison under cover of a foggy night and made their way to the beach. The four then split up into two pairs. Doc and Stamphill tried to swim out together towards San Francisco, but were pushed back by the tide. They then tried to quickly build a raft from bits of wood lying around the beach, tying them together with strips of cloth from their shirts. They hoped to make a serviceable raft before they were spotted, but were seen from a guard's tower when the fog briefly cleared. The guard ordered them to "throw your hands in the air", but they just ignored him. Stamphill later said they didn't hear any warnings. The guard opened fire, hitting them in the legs. Another burst of fire from a patrol boat wounded Doc in the head. He told Stamphill, "Don't move. They are going to kill us".[11] He was recaptured, dying shortly afterwards from his wounds.[12] Young and McCain were also recaptured and sent to solitary confinement.[13]

Arthur Barker is buried in Olivet Memorial Park, Colma, California.[11]

Media[edit]

James Cagney as mother-fixated gangster Cody Jarrett, based on Barker
  • The central character of Arthur "Cody" Jarrett, played by James Cagney in the classic 1949 gangster film White Heat is said to based on Doc Barker.[14]
  • In the 1957 docudrama Guns Don't Argue Doc is played by Lash LaRue
  • Doc is portrayed by Peter Baldwin in "Ma Barker and Her Boys", an episode of 1959 TV series The Untouchables, which pits Federal Agent Eliot Ness against the Barker clan, and fictionally depicts Ness as leading the assault on Ma Barker and her sons at their Florida hide-out. In this version, Lloyd, Fred and Doc are all present at the final shootout. Doc is portrayed as Ma's "favorite son", but towards the end, he's the only son who tries to get away from his mother's malign influence to live a normal life with his girlfriend (in an ironic line, his girlfriend refers to his attempted escape from his mother with the words "he's breaking out of Alcatraz"). In this version he is the only one who survives in the end.
  • Doc is portrayed by Ron Foster in Ma Barker's Killer Brood (1960). He has a fictional affair with Lou, the lover of Machine Gun Kelly.
  • In Bloody Mama (1970) he is portrayed by Clint Kimbrough. In this version he is killed in the same gunfight in which his mother and brother Fred died.
  • In Public Enemies (1996) he is portrayed by James Marsden.
  • Doc's escape attempt from Alcatraz is depicted in the 1995 film Murder in the First, starring Kevin Bacon as co-escapee Henri Young. Doc is played by Michael Melvin.
  • Actor Jonas Daniel Alexander will portray Barker in the first Dollar Baby screen adaptation of Stephen King's The Death of Jack Hamilton.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Potter, Claire Bond (1998). War on Crime: Bandits, G-men, and the Politics of Mass Culture. Rutgers University Press. p. 173. ISBN 0-8135-2487-3. 
  2. ^ a b c MacCabee, Paul (1995). John Dillinger Slept Here. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-87351-316-9. 
  3. ^ a b c Mahoney, Tim, Secret Partners; Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang, Minnessota Historical society, p.60.
  4. ^ Helmer, William J. and Mattix, Rick (2007) The Complete Public Enemies Almanac Cumberland House
  5. ^ Michael Koch (2008) A Murder in Tulsa Publish America
  6. ^ Mahoney, p. 78, 114
  7. ^ Mahoney, p.126.
  8. ^ a b Alex Tresniowski, The Vendett: Special Agent Melvin Purvis, John Dillinger, and Hoover's FBI in the Age of Gangsters, 2010, p.444.
  9. ^ Mahoney, p.171
  10. ^ FBI Barker-Karpis summary
  11. ^ a b c d Ward, Davis, Alcatraz: The Gangster Years, University of California Press, 2009, pp.169; 487.
  12. ^ William B. Breuer, J. Edgar Hoover and His G-Men, Praeger, 1995, p.235.
  13. ^ Esslinger, Michael (2003). Alcatraz: A Definitive History of the Penitentiary Years. Ocean View Publishing. p. 180. ISBN 0-9704614-0-2. 
  14. ^ Hughes, Howard, Crime Wave: The Filmgoers' Guide to Great Crime Movies, I.B.Tauris, 26 May 2006, p.32.
  15. ^ "'The Death of Jack Hamilton' official movie website". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 

External links[edit]