Saturday, June 7, 2008

Machine Gun Kelly/G-men

HH Note: Take a look at this insight into a common nickname.

Mr. Schiff: Hi, welcome to "FBI 100, A Closer Look." I'm Neal Schiff of the Bureau's Office of Public Affairs along with FBI Historian Dr. John Fox. John, for years FBI Special Agents have been called G-men? When did that start?

Dr. Fox: "Well Neal it started somewhere in the early 1930s. G-men had been this term that was used kind of as criminal slang for a government agent. But with the arrest, as legend has it, with the arrest of Machine Gun Kelly on December 26th, 1933, that term started to be used exclusively for FBI agents."

Mr. Schiff: Tell us about Machine Gun Kelly?

Dr. Fox: "Kelly was a former bootlegger and he was turning to other crimes as prohibition was obviously coming to an end. One of them was kidnapping. He and a colleague named Albert Bates kidnapped a wealthy Oklahoman named Charles Urschel. He was in the oil business and Machine Gun Kelly, and especially his wife who is sometimes credited with being the brains of the operation, really felt that they could make a quick buck. They kidnapped Urschel; they hid him; eventually collected a ransom and let him go. Thanks to Urschel's memory though, the FBI was able to piece together the path that the kidnappers took to where they hid Urschel and the Bureau was able to begin to track Machine Gun Kelly down."

Mr. Schiff: What about the hunt for Kelly and how he was caught?

Dr. Fox: "With the help of a lot of other police, we tracked Kelly across several states. Eventually working with Tennessee police, we found him in Memphis. He was hiding out in a rooming house and when we entered, as legend has it, he threw up his hands and shouted, 'Don't shoot G-men, don't shoot.' Now, that seems to have been some press license in a story. Whether or not Kelly actually said something like that, chances are he probably didn't, but it was a legend that caught on. And as the FBI became more famous through the hunt for John Dillinger and the rest of the notorious gangsters of the day, the term G-men came to stick with FBI agents. And since then we've been known as the G-men."

Mr. Schiff: On July 26th this year, the FBI celebrates its 100th anniversary. Much more on the Internet at From the FBI's Public Affairs office, along with Bureau Historian Dr. John Fox, I'm Neal Schiff with "FBI 100, A Closer Look."

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