Alcatraz – Episode 3: Escape! and Capone’s Last Years

Alcatraz, 1938

The tension in Alcatraz heats up in 1937 as the guards and prisoner’s clash. Escapes will be made, prisoner’s and guards will be killed. Al Capone spends his final years on the island. And another con’s reputation finally catches up to him in a shocking act. Alcatraz is beginning to live up to it’s reputation as the toughest prison in America.

Al Capone at Alcatraz.
Theodore “Ted” Cole and Ralph Roe – First two inmates to make a planned attempt at escaping Alcatraz.
Flooding of the Sacramento River added to the chaos and confusion to the 1937 escape plot. The weather caused not only rushing waters, but opaque fog that helped conceal the fates of the escapees. Front page of: Oakland Tribune December 12, 1937.
Alvin Karpis, Witness to the Roe and Cole escape. The longest serving prisoner of Alcatraz.
Daily Capital News March 25, 1938
Rufus “Whitey” Franklin criminal record. Part of the 1938 Mat Shop Escape.
Jimmy “Tex” Lucas, Leader of the 1938 Mat Shop Escape
Thomas Limerick, a member of the escape plan. Killed by a shot to the head by Officer Stites during the May 23, 1938 escape plot.
Officer Royal C. Cline, the officer on duty in the mat shop during the 1938 escape. Died of injuries sustained during the escape.
The tower which Lucas, Limerick and Franklin attacked in an attempt to seize tower-guard officer Stites’ weapons. San Francisco Examiner November 18, 1938
James “Tex Lucas (far left) and Rufus “Whitey” Franklin, being escorted to jail to be tried for the death of Officer Cline during the escape.
Officer Stites (far left) giving testimony on the May 23, 1938 escape plot.
“Capone’s Mind Fails at ‘Rock'” – The Ogden Standard Examiner Feb. 8,1938. Rumors of Al Capone’s mental decline makes its way to the press.
Photo of Carl Janaway, who spent time in the “bug cages” in the hospital ward of Alcatraz. From the McComb Daily Journal, Jan. 20, 1937.
Karpis and Barker from their kidnapping days. From – Pensacola News Journal Jan 19,1935.
The participants of the escape organized by “Doc” Barker in 1939. From The Courier Journal (Louisville, KY) Jan 14, 1939.
Henri Young on trial for the murder of Rufus McCain. Photo from the San Francisco Examiner Feb. 12, 1941.

Alcatraz References:


Bergreen, Laurence. Capone: The Man and the Era. Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Burrough, Bryan. Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. Penguin Book, 2005.

Denevi, Don, and Philip Bergen. Alcatraz ’46;: The Anatomy of a Classic Prison Tragedy. Leswing Press, 1974.

Johnston, Warden James A. Alcatraz Island Prison And The Men Who Live There. C. Scribner’s Sons, 1949.

Karpis, Alvin, and Robert Livesey. On the Rock: Twenty-Five Years in Alcatraz. Musson Book Co., 1980.

Quillen, Jim. Alcatraz from the Inside. Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, 1991.

Newspapers (Historical):

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Daily News
  • McComb Daily Journal
  • Oakland Tribune
  • The Courier Journal
  • The Daily Capital
  • The Daily Oklahoman
  • The Evening News
  • The Indianapolis Star
  • The Ogden Standard
  • The San Fransisco Examiner