Albert Bates (criminal)

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Albert Bates
Albert Bates mugshot 1934.jpg
BOP mugshot, 1934
Born(1893-10-16)October 16, 1893
DiedJuly 4, 1948(1948-07-04) (aged 54)
Cause of deathHeart disease
Other namesGeorge Davis, George Harris J.B. King and Magosly
OccupationBank robber and burglar
Criminal statusDied in Alcatraz
Conviction(s)Kidnapping (1933)
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment

Albert Lawrence Bates (October 16, 1893 – July 4, 1948) was an American bank robber and burglar during the 1920s and 1930s. He used a number of different aliases during his criminal career including George Davis, George Harris and J.B. King. Albert aided their escape from Alcatraz in 1945. He was the longtime partner of George "Machine Gun" Kelly. He also took part in the kidnapping of oil magnate Charles Urschel in July of 1933.


Albert Bates was born on October 16, 1893, to Elizabeth Mary Hughes and Wiley Bates.[1] He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1911 but was arrested for desertion and sent to the military prison on Alcatraz where he stayed for 15 months. Albert Bates was first arrested in Nevada for burglary on March 28, 1916, and was sentenced to serve 1 to 15 years at the state prison in Carson City. He was paroled on November 13, 1917, and was out for less than half-a-year when he was arrested for burglary in Ogden, Utah, on April 22, 1920. He was convicted on August 3, 1921, and sentenced to five years at the Utah state prison where he remained for five years.

Bates would continuously be in trouble with the law throughout his criminal career, particularly as a young man, and was imprisoned in the Colorado state penitentiary in Cañon City for a third burglary conviction on May 10, 1927.[2][3]

By the time of his release on July 17, 1930, again being granted parole, Bates had become a hardened criminal. He soon joined up with bank robber "Machine Gun Kelly", who had been released from Leavenworth a month before Bates, and together robbed their first bank in Denton, Texas, with several others on February 6, 1932. Seven months later, he and Kelly teamed with Eddie Bentz to rob a bank on Colfax, Washington, of $77,000 in cash and bonds on September 21. He and Kelly, this time with Eddie Doll, hit another bank in Tupelo, Mississippi, for $38,000 on November 30, 1932. This robbery was one of many wrongly attributed to Pretty Boy Floyd by authorities.[2][3][4]

With violent shootouts between outlaws and law enforcement on the rise in 1932 and 1933, Bates and Kelly began considering kidnapping. They may have been encouraged by the successful 1933 kidnapping of brewer William Hamm for $100,000 as they soon began planning the kidnapping of Charles Urschell, a wealthy oil tycoon in Oklahoma City. On July 22, 1933, Bates and Kelly abducted Urschell from his home at gunpoint and drove him to a Texas ranch owned by Kelly's in-laws. They eventually received a $200,000 ransom and Urschell was safely released on July 31.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Bates and Kelly split up while the FBI took over the investigation. The ranch was eventually discovered by authorities, reports vary between detective work by the FBI or a tip received from local authorities, and federal agents raided the ranch on August 12 arresting three of Kelly's in-laws and a visiting Harvey Bailey. Bates was arrested the same day in Denver for passing stolen checks. Although Kelly would evade authorities for another month, Bates and the rest involved in the Urschall kidnapping were convicted in federal court on September 30, 1933. All were sentenced to life imprisonment a week later[8] with Bates being sent to Alcatraz where he was later joined by his partner Kelly. Bates died of heart disease on July 4, 1948,[2][3][4][5][9] and is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.[1]


  1. ^ a b SFgenealogy. "San Francisco Mortuary Records". Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d Newton, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Robberies, Heists, and Capers. New York: Facts On File Inc., 2002. (pg. 30) ISBN 0-8160-4488-0
  3. ^ a b c d Ward, David. Alcatraz: The Gangster Years. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009. (pg. 28-40, 87-88, 338-339) ISBN 0-520-25607-7
  4. ^ a b c Newton, Michael. The FBI Encyclopedia. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2003. (pg. 178) ISBN 0-7864-1718-8
  5. ^ a b Owens, Ron. Oklahoma Justice: A Century of Gunfighters, Gangsters and Terrorists. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing Company, 1995. (pg. 116-117) ISBN 1-56311-280-9
  6. ^ Theoharis, Athan G. The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999. (pg. 56) ISBN 0-89774-991-X
  7. ^ Pryor, Alton. Outlaws and Gunslingers: Tales of the West's Most Notorious Outlaws. Roseville, California: Stagecoach Publishing, 2001. (pg. 143) ISBN 0-9660053-6-8
  8. ^ a b Powers, Richard Gid. Broken: The Troubled Past and Uncertain Future of the FBI. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004. (pg. 147-150) ISBN 0-684-83371-9
  9. ^ a b Yadon, Laurence J. and Dan Anderson. 100 Oklahoma Outlaws, Gangsters, and Lawmen: 1839-1939. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 2007. (pg. 191, 194, 206-207, 209) ISBN 1-58980-384-1

Further reading[edit]

  • Breuer, William B. J. Edgar Hoover and his G-Men. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 0-275-94990-7
  • Butler, Ken. More Oklahoma Renegades. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 2007. ISBN 1-58980-464-3
  • DeToledano, Ralph. J. Edgar Hoover: The Man In His Time. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1973. ISBN 0-87000-188-4
  • Hamilton, Stanley. Machine Gun Kelly's Last Stand. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003. ISBN 0-7006-1247-5
  • Kirkpatrick, Ernest E. Voices from Alcatraz: The Authentic Inside Story of the Urschel Kidnapping. San Antonio: Naylor Company, 1947.
  • Powers, Richard Gid. Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover. New York: Free Press, 1987. ISBN 0-02-925060-9
  • Williams, Edward Bennett. One Man's Freedom. New York: Atheneum, 1962.