|George "Machine Gun" Kelly is probably considered one of the most famous "gangsters" from the prohibition era. "Machine Gun" was born George Kelly Barnes on July 18, 1895, to a wealthy family living in Memphis, Tennessee. Kelly's early years as a child were essentially uneventful and his family raised him in a traditional household. His first sign of trouble began when he enrolled into Mississippi State University to study agriculture in 1917. From the beginning, Kelly was considered a poor student with his highest grade (a C plus) awarded for good physical hygiene. He was constantly in trouble with the faculty and spent much of his academic career attempting to work off the demerits he had earned.|
|George "Machine Gun" Kelly|
|It was during this time that Kelly met a young woman by the name of Geneva Ramsey. Kelly quickly fell in love with Geneva and made an abrupt decision to quit school and marry. Kelly fathered two children with Geneva, and to make ends meet, took a job as a cab driver in Memphis. He worked long hours with little reward for his time. Kelly and Geneva were struggling financially, as the job was failing to provide enough money to support their family. Distressed and broke, Kelly left his job with the cab company to seek other avenues to make ends meet. The strain proved to be overwhelming and at 19 years old, he found himself without steady work and separated from his wife. It was about this time when Kelly took up with a small time gangster and started a new venture as a bootlegger. Kelly began to enjoy the financial rewards of his new trade along with the notoriety.|
Along with the new success also came the quandaries of working in the underground. After being arrested on several occasions for illegal trafficking, Kelly decided to leave Memphis along with a new girlfriend and head west. He adopted the new alias of George R. Kelly to help preserve the respect and name of his upstanding family back home. Kelly's luck continued to saw tooth with great monetary scores and several unfortunate predicaments. By 1927, Kelly had already started to earn his reputation in the underground world as a seasoned gangster, having weathered several arrests and serving various jail sentences. In 1928 he was caught smuggling liquor into an Indian Reservation and was sentenced to three years at Leavenworth Penitentiary.
After serving-out another long sentence at the State Penitentiary in New Mexico in 1929 for another similar conviction, Kelly gravitated to Oklahoma City where he hooked up with a small time bootlegger named Steve Anderson. Kelly soon fell for Anderson's attractive mistress Kathryn Thorne, a seasoned criminal in her own right. Thorne had come from a family of outlaws and had been arrested for various charges ranging from robbery to prostitution. Thorne was twice divorced and her second husband had been a bootlegger who had later been found shot to death under suspicious circumstances. The official determination of death was suicide, but many people (including one of the investigators) had long suspected that Kathryn was involved since only days before, she had made comments to a gas station attendant that she was going over to "kill that god-damned Charlie Thorne." Kelly and Kathryn became inseparable and married in Minneapolis in September of 1930.