- NAME: John Dillinger
- OCCUPATION: Thief, Organized Crime Boss
- BIRTH DATE: June 22, 1903
- DEATH DATE: July 22, 1934
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Indianapolis, Indiana
- PLACE OF DEATH: Chicago, Illinois
- Full Name: John Herbert Dillinger
- Nickname: "Public Enemy No. 1"
- AKA: John Dillinger
- AKA: Johnnie Dillinger
- Nickname: "Jackrabbit"
- AKA: Jimmy Lawrence
Best Known For
John Dillinger was an infamous gangster and bank robber during the Great Depression, and was know as "Jackrabbit" and "Public Enemy No. 1."
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Matters reached a head on July 21, 1923, when young John Dillinger stole a car to impress a girl on a date. He was later found roaming aimlessly through Indianapolis streets by a police officer, who, after questioning Dillinger and becoming suspicious of his vague explanations, placed him under arrest. Dillinger managed to break loose from the officer, however, and ran. Knowing that he couldn't go back home,
he joined the United States Navy the next day.
While Dillinger made it through basic training, he quickly realized that the regimented life of military service was not for him. While assigned to the U.S.S. Utah—the same U.S.S. Utah that was sunk at Pearl Harbor in 1941—he jumped ship and returned home to Mooresville, ending his five-month military career. He was eventually dishonorably discharged.
Upon his return to Mooresville in April 1924, John Dillinger met and married 16-year-old Beryl Ethel Hovious and attempted to settle down. With no job or income, the newlyweds moved into Dillinger's father's farm house. Within a few weeks of his wedding, Dillinger was arrested for stealing several chickens. Though John Sr. was able to work out a deal to keep the case out of court, John Jr.'s recent brush wasn't without repercussion: The incident took a significant toll on the father-son relationship, and John Jr. and Beryl soon moved out of their cramped bedroom and into Beryl's parents' home in Martinsville, Indiana. There, he got a job in an upholstery shop.
During the summer of 1924, John Dillinger played shortstop on the Martinsville baseball team, where he met and befriended Edgar Singleton, a heavy drinker and distant relative of Dillinger's stepmother. Singleton became Dillinger's first partner in crime. He told Dillinger about a local grocer who would be carrying his daily receipts on his way from work to the barbershop. Singleton thought that Dillinger could easily rob the elderly grocer for the cash he would be carrying while Singleton waited for him in a getaway car down the street, and the two decided to execute the plan. The incident would not go as planned, however, nor would it go well.
Dillinger was armed with a .32 caliber and pistol and a large bolt wrapped in a handkerchief. He came up behind the grocer and clubbed him over the head with the bolt, but the grocer turned and grabbed Dillinger and the gun, forcing it to discharge. Believing that he had shot the grocer, Dillinger took off running down the street toward Singleton's getaway car. Singleton wasn't there, however, and Dillinger was soon caught by police.
The local prosecutor convinced Dillinger's father that if his son pleaded guilty to the armed robbery charges, the court would be lenient—that was the extent of his legal assistance, however. Dillinger appeared in court without a lawyer and without his father, and the court threw the book at him: He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison, even though it was his first conviction. Singleton, who had a prison record, was also caught, but would serve less than two years of his two- to four-year sentence thanks to having a lawyer.
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