Charles F. Urschel
Charles Frederick Urschel (March 7, 1890 - September 16, 1970) was a Texas oilman and kidnap victim of George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes.
Urschel eventually thwarted the crime by carefully noting every piece of evidence of his whereabouts during his captivity despite being blindfolded and leaving fingerprints on every surface he could reach. After being released after the ransom was delivered, Urschel was able to supply ample information for the FBI to solve the crime.
Urschel's first marriage was to Flored Slick the sister of Thomas Baker Slick, Sr., oil magnate known as "The King of the Wildcatters". Tom Slick died on August 16, 1930, from a massive stroke following surgery. After Flored's death in 1931, Charles Urschel, Tom Slick's brother-in-law and a trustee to his estate, then married Slick’s widow, Berenice. Their combined fortunes created one of the wealthiest couples in Oklahoma City.
On July 22, 1933, using his trademark machine gun, George "Machine Gun" Kelly, along with Albert L. Bates, interrupted a bridge game at Charles F. Urschel's residence in Oklahoma City, abducting Urschel and his guest Walter Jarrett at gunpoint while their wives helplessly watched. This began a startling kidnapping case that evoked the new Lindbergh kidnapping laws, led to twenty-one convictions, coined a new name for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, and culminated in one of the first filmed trials.
After kidnapping Urschel, the criminals took him to a farmhouse in Paradise, Texas, and held him there for over a week. The kidnappers released him on July 30, after a representative for the family paid two hundred thousand dollars in documented bills. During his captivity, Urschel, although blindfolded most of the time, memorized many details about his location, including the passing of an airplane overhead at the same times every day. This and other information that the FBI had garnered helped locate the hideout.
Because of the media's recent attention to the Lindbergh kidnapping and his agency's floundering reputation, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover took special interest in this case. The Lindbergh Law defined kidnapping as a federal offense punishable by death, and Hoover wanted to impress the public in the first high-profile crime regulated by the new law. Many reported that Berenice Urschel talked to the FBI director the night of the abduction. Hoover pulled one of his best agents, Gus Jones, off of the Kansas City Massacre investigation and made the kidnapping an agency priority.
When the FBI raided the farmhouse in Paradise, they arrested the owners, Robert and Ora Shannon, and Harvey Bailey, who was using the farm as a safe house after committing a bank robbery in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, with Kelly's machine gun. Bailey also had some of the Urschel money in his possession. Through the continuing investigation seven persons, including Bates, who was arrested in Denver, were tried and convicted by a jury in Oklahoma City in September and October 1933. Two of the felons, Edward Berman and Clifford Skelly, received sentences for "money changing" or exchanging the tainted bills for clean, spendable currency. During the trial the Kellys penned letters threatening Urschel, his family, witnesses, the prosecuting attorney, and the judge. On September 26, 1933, FBI agents captured George and Kathryn Kelly in Memphis, Tennessee. The FBI claimed that Kelly cried, "Don't Shoot, G-men," thus coining the name by which the government agency was known for years afterwards.
The FBI flew the Kellys into Oklahoma City to stand trial days before U.S. Judge Edgar S. Vaught sentenced the other defendants. The judge sentenced Bates, Bailey, and Ora and Robert Shannon to life in prison for their roles in the kidnapping. The press believed that George and Kathryn Kelly would plead guilty, but they both entered a not guilty plea. On October 12, 1933, Judge Vaught decreed both George and Kathryn guilty and sentenced them to life in prison.
- Pittman, Kitty. "Slick, Thomas Baker (1883-1930)" (in English). Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
- O'Dell, Larry. "Urschel Kidnapping" (in English). Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved May 11, 2013.