- 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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But even after his departure from the FBI, Purvis still experienced the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover. Accounts of how Hoover blocked Purvis' employment range from Hoover delivering a discreet whisper to the right person, to blocking Purvis' nomination to a federal judgeship. He also allegedly tried to thwart his application to be special counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Purvis got the job anyway,
thanks to a senator who was a family friend. Through all this, Purvis remained seemingly oblivious to Hoover's malice and remained faithful the FBI.
On February 29, 1960, at his home in Florence, South Carolina, Melvin Purvis ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The .45 caliber automatic pistol that lay beside him was a gift from fellow agents when he resigned. Legend has it that it was one of the guns that killed John Dillinger, but further investigation revealed that the gun was once owned by a Chicago contract killer. There is some dispute as to the exact cause of Purvis' death. After an FBI investigation, the death was ruled a suicide. But there was no note and evidence later surfaced that Purvis might simply have been cleaning his gun, trying to remove a tracer bullet that had gotten stuck in the chamber.
The fact that J. Edgar Hoover had spent the last quarter century of Purvis' life persecuting him might have finally caught up with Purvis. Hoover never even paid his condolences to the family after Purvis' death. One piece of evidence confirming Hoover's antagonism and its possible effect on Purvis was revealed in a telegram sent by the Purvis family shortly after his funeral. In it, Purvis's widow wrote: "We are honored that you ignored Melvin's death. Your jealousy hurt him very much but until the end I think he loved you." Despite the tragedy that marked the end of his life, Purvis would always be best remembered as "the man who got Dillinger."
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