Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Badass of the Month

During his early months at Alcatraz, Al Capone made an enemy by showing his disregard for the prison social order when he cut in line while prisoners were waiting for a haircut. James Lucas, a Texas bank robber serving 30 years, reportedly confronted the former syndicate leader and told him to get back at the end of the line. When Capone asked if he knew who he was, Lucas reportedly grabbed a pair of the barber’s scissors and, holding them to Capone’s neck, answered: “Yeah, I know who you are, greaseball. And if you don’t get back to the end of that fucking line, I’m gonna know who you were.”

Al Capone

James Lucas

There is an alternative version of the above incident, or perhaps a separate incident, or perhaps even the two accounts can stand together.  At any rate the below story is documented.


Lucas (912-1998) was originally sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment for robbing the First National Bank in Albany, Texas, and for violation of the Dyer Act (interstate trafficking of stolen vehicles). He arrived at Alcatraz in January 1935 from the Texas State Prison and was known there as James "Texas Bank Robber" Lucas.


On June 23, 1936, Lucas stabbed Al Capone in the back with a pair of scissors from the prison barber shop. Capone had been working in the laundry area 10 feet (3 m) away. Lucas was sent to solitary confinement for his attack on Capone. After being stabbed, Capone turned and grabbed Lucas and threw him into the wall. The inmates were angry with Capone for not taking part in an inmate strike.


In the spring of 1938, James Lucas, Thomas R. Limerick and Rufus Franklin planned an escape from Alcatraz. Their escape plan began by incapacitating an unarmed guard supervising a work detail on the top floor. Once the supervisor was rendered unconscious, the convicts would escape through a window to the rooftop, where they would incapacitate an armed guard and leave the island via a seized police boat. They enacted their escape plan on May 23, 1938 in the prison's mat shop, where they assaulted Custodial Officer Royal Cline with hammer blows to his head. They proceeded to the roof, where an armed guard shot both Franklin and Limerick, although Lucas wasn't shot. Other guards arrived at the scene. Franklin, Limerick, and Lucas were cornered and surrendered to the guards.

Cline died of his injuries the next day, and Thomas Limerick, one of the wounded convicts, also died. Lucas and the other surviving convict, Rufus Franklin, were tried for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Lucas spent six years in isolation for the incident. 


He was transferred a few years later, and paroled in 1958. Lucas had a brief stay in prison at McNeil Island for parole violation. He was given a presidential commutation of sentence and released. He later worked in the oil business and died in 1998 in Sacramento.


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