Friday, June 23, 2017


6/23/1936 - Following in the tradition of Texas hard cases like John Wesley Hardin and Clyde Barrow, by the time James Crittenden Lucas turns 22-years-of age, the Texas hoodlum has robbed the First National Bank of Albany, Texas, violated the Dyer Act by transporting a stolen vehicle over state lines (the same act the FBI uses in 1934 to go after bank robber John Dillinger), been caught, escapes jail, gets caught again, and is sentenced to 30 years behind Federal bars (and has 128 years of hard time waiting back in Texas on murder, robbery, and escape charges).  Correctly identified as a troublemaker, he is initially sent to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, but then almost instantly reassigned to Alcatraz Island, becoming convict #224.  Not cowed by the Rock's hardness, or the criminal celebrity of some of his island companions, on Alcatraz he participates in a work strike over conditions within the prison, and is caught several times breaking rules or manifesting behaviors that appear he might be planning an escape.  And he soon butts heads with the most notorious convict within the prison, inmate #85, Chicago mobster, Alphonse Gabriel "Scarface Al" Capone.
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Believed to be receiving preferential treatment at the Federal penitentiary at Atlanta, Georgia, Capone is transferred to the hard time of serving his income tax evasion sentence of eleven years on Alcatraz Island, and almost instantly discovers he has no pull with either the guards or his fellow inmates.  Moving to the front of a line of convicts waiting for their hair to be cut, the mob boss almost gets his throat cut instead when he is grabbed from behind by Lucas. "Get to the back of the line you bum," Lucas tells the 250-pound gangster, who responds by threateningly asking the young convict, whom he calls a punk, if he knows who he is. Reacting instantly to Capone's query, Lucas grabs a pair of cutting shears off the barber's table and puts a blade to the mobster's throat.  "Yeah, I know who you are greaseball," Lucas responds with a snarl, "and if you don't get back to the end of the line, I'm going to know who you were!"  Realizing he has no juice, Capone complies with Lucas' request, and the two men become wary enemies, bad blood that is exasperated with rumors of a money loan to Lucas being denied because of Capone, and Capone offering a handsome payday for anyone who will kill the bank robber.  
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Animosity between the pair finally come to a head on the morning of 6/23/1936, when while working in the barber shop, Lucas discovers Capone mopping the floor of the laundry, only ten feet away.  Opportunity provided. grabbing a pair of scissors, at 9:45 in the morning Lucas rushes Capone from behind, stabbing and slashing at the gangster, but is unable to put a killing blow together before guard Thomas J. Sanders and his billy club put an end to the attack (Capone fights back with his fists, and a mandolin laying on a table in the room). Bleeding profusely, Capone goes to the prison infirmary for medical treatment with cuts to his back, chest, and hands (defensive wounds trying to block the scissors), while Lucas is put in solitary confinement on the prison's infamous D-Block.  Asked why he attacked Capone, the bank robber responds, "Well, he threatened to kill me," showing a lack of remorse that has prison officials kill 3,600 days of "good time" the convict has somehow managed to accrue.  When Lucas is finally returned to the prison population the feud does not continue however because Capone has started to lose his mind to the ravages of venereal disease and doesn't even know Lucas is a foe, and because the bank robber has a more important matter on his agenda ... a 1938 escape attempt from the Mat Shop with fellow bad apples, Thomas Limerick (36-years-old and serving a life sentence for bank robbery and kidnapping) and Rufus Franklin (24-years-old and serving a 30 years for bank robbery, auto theft, and assault). 
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Barber Shop Area

Assigned to the top floor of the model industries building where the prison's woodworking shop is located, on 5/23/1938, the trio launches the third escape attempt from the prison by taking Correctional Officer Royal Cline (supervising the wood shop) out things entirely with a hammer beating to the head that kills the 36-year-old guard two days later (he will be survived by his wife and four children.  That problem eliminated, the men then gain access to the roof by cutting through a barred window, and from three sides, rush Tower Guard Harold Stites, with the intent of gaining his weapons and then using the guns to take over the prison launch that can get them off the island.  Unfortunately though, Stites sees the men coming and calmly shoots Limerick fatally in the head, pivots and drops Franklin with a bullet through his arm, and then turns to deal with Lucas ... who seeing what has happened to his pals, raises his hands in surrender.  
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Brought to trial for the murder of Cline, Franklin and Lucas will both be found guilty of murder, and have life sentences added to the already existing time behind bars they are serving ... they are also thrown in dark cells on D-Block for years ... Lucas for six, Franklin for fourteen (Franklin is still in solitary confinement when he is almost set free (the key to his confinement can't be located) by convicts trying to get off the island in 1946.  Mellowed finally, Lucas breaks no more prison rules once he is placed back in the general prison population, and behaving himself, is granted a parole in 1958 (Texas by this time is uninterested in continuing the outlaw's incarceration).  Violating his parole for a minor infraction, he is briefly placed back in Federal custody on McNeil Island ... where he receives a presidential pardon and is freed.  Last confrontation with authorities, out of prison and with nothing hanging over his head, Lucas completes his transformation from Alcatraz tough guy to law abiding citizen ... holding down a good job in the oil industry, marrying, and becoming a father of four children.  Born in Midland County, Texas in 1912, Lucas dies of natural causes in Sacramento, California on 11/28/1998 at the age of 86, with few people at his funeral ever knowing that once-upon-a-time, he tried to kill Al Capone with a set of barber scissors!   
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Lucas & Franklin
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