- NAME: Melvin Purvis
- OCCUPATION: Civil Servant
- BIRTH DATE: October 24, 1903
- DEATH DATE: February 29, 1960
- EDUCATION: University of South Carolina
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Timmonsville, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: Florence, South Carolina
- AKA: Melvin Horace Purvis
- AKA: Melvin Purvis
- Full Name: Melvin Horace Purvis Jr.
Best Known For
Melvin Purvis was the FBI agent responsible for bringing several notorious criminals to justice, among them outlaws John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd.
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Melvin Purvis was born on October 24, 1903 in Timmonsville, South Carolina, and joined the FBI in 1927. He excelled as a field agent, and quickly rose through the ranks. The success of his FBI career was marked by his painstaking diligence in tracking down the most notorious gangsters of society. Purvis resigned from the FBI in 1935, and returned to practicing law. On February 29, 1960, he committed suicide in Florence, South Carolina.
Melvin Horace Purvis, born on October 24, 1903 in Timmonsville, South Carolina, is best known as the federal agent responsible for bringing several notorious criminals to justice, among them outlaws John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Adam Richetti. The fifth of 12 children born to Melvin Horace Purvis Sr., a tobacco farmer of Scottish heritage, and his wife, Janie Elizabeth Mims, Melvin Purvis graduated from the University of South Carolina with a law degree in 1925. He went on to work as a junior partner at the prestigious law firm of Willcox and Hardee in Florence, South Carolina. For a short time, Purvis thought of a career as a diplomat, but the State Department was not hiring at that time. Heeding the call of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to set new professional standards at the FBI, Pervus moved to Washington, D.C. and joined the Bureau in 1927.
Purvis excelled as a field agent, and quickly rose through the ranks. He was one of the few agents given special attention by Hoover, in spite of his less-than-stellar administrative performance. During his early career, he headed the Division of Investigation offices in Birmingham, Alabama, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Cincinnati, Ohio, performing his duties in an exemplary fashion. In 1932, he was placed in charge of the Chicago office by Hoover.
Small in stature (one newspaper account measures him at five-feet-four-inches, weighing 127 pounds), Purvis was referred to as "Little Mel," by the press and even by J. Edgar Hoover. He spoke softly with a mellifluous Southern drawl. He was famously frugal with words, often refusing to comment on spectacular cases in which he played a part. One newspaper of the day referred to him as a "clam personified." The success of his FBI career was marked by his painstaking diligence in tracking down the most notorious gangsters of society.
Beginning in 1933, John Dillinger and his gang went on a violent spree of bank robberies throughout the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, killing numerous innocents and several local police officers. In less than a year, his gang stole an estimated $150,000. After an arrest in Tucson, Arizona, during the bank robber's "vacation," Dillinger was extradited to Indiana. In an infamous escape from jail—legend has it he brandished a wooden gun fooling police officers—Dillinger fled Crown Point prison on March 3, 1934. He drove a stolen vehicle across state lines, which was a federal offense and brought him into the jurisdiction of the FBI. Two days after Dillinger's jail break, Hoover ordered Purvis to develop a network of informants to capture the desperado.
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