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Real Name: Frank Nash
Birth – Death: February 6th, 1887 – June 17th, 1933
Lore: Frank Nash got his nickname “Jelly” from the chemical jelly explosives he used to crack safes.
Reality: Supposedly the nickname was actually short for “Jellybean,” which Nash was called in his youth because it was a slang term for a sharp dresser. As ZZ Topp said “Every girl’s crazy ’bout a Jell-eee-beeeeeaan.”
Criminal Career: After serving in the U.S. Army from 1904 to 1907, Jelly Nash began applying some of the skills he picked up in the military to committing criminal acts. Tradition holds that Nash robbed close to 200 banks during his career.
Frank was so successful that his first conviction didn’t happen until 1913, and then only because he showed some uncharacteristic greed and treachery. He and “Humpy” Wortman stole around $1,000 from an Oklahoma store and while Wortman was digging a hole to hide the loot, Jelly shot him in the back and made off with all the money.
(Lore: Humpy Wortman got his nickname from his tendency to hump the legs of his fellow criminals. Reality: I just made that up.)
Nash was soon arrested and sentenced to life in prison. In late March of 1918 Jelly convinced the Warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary that he wanted to enlist in World War One. Strings were pulled and the criminal’s sentence was altered to 10 years. He was paroled and returned to the U.S. Army as he had promised.
In late August or September Nash was discharged from the service and resumed his life of crime. Jelly went on a two-year spree of safe-cracking and after being caught was sentenced to 25 years back at the Oklahoma State Pen.
Nash behaved like a model prisoner, became a Trustee and got his sentence reduced to 5 years. On December 29th, 1922, Frank was paroled and joined up with Al Spencer’s gang of bank robbers.
August 20th of 1923 saw the gang expand their horizons a little by robbing the Katy Limited Mail Train in Oklahoma. Jelly took his share of the proceeds and bolted for Mexico, where he married a Mexican woman, back-dating the marriage license in order to pretend he was marrying the young woman on the day the Katy Limited was robbed.
That inspired attempt at an alibi did not hold up and on a trip to the U.S. Nash was arrested and – in March of 1924 – sentenced to 25 years in Leavenworth for armed postal theft. Three members of the Al Spencer Gang joined him.
By the year 1930 Frank’s usual good behavior behind bars had earned him the position of Chef and Janitor to Leavenworth’s Deputy Warden. On October 19th of that same year the Deputy Warden sent Nash on an errand outside the prison walls, so the career criminal seized the opportunity to escape.
(Forget the Shadow – apparently Jelly Nash really had “the strange ability to cloud men’s minds.”)
Frank went Big Time now, hiring out his various skills to organized crime factions in Chicago and other major Midwest cities. In December of 1931, Jelly’s familiarity with Leavenworth earned him a high-paying gig abetting the escape of 7 or 8 inmates from that federal pen.
Spring of 1932 found Nash partying in Hot Springs, Arkansas with his Chicago girlfriend Frances Luce. For devotees of 1930s gangsters this meant Jelly was serious about Frances since Hot Springs was where the Big-Timers gathered for wild blowouts and major networking.
Frances was once again Nash’s female companion for the Spring of 1933 parties in Hot Springs. In late May the two married under the aliases Frank and Frances Moore, despite Jelly still being married to at least two other women.
On June 16th (Bloom’s Day!) of 1933 FBI agents and police officers arrested Frank outside Hot Springs’ White Front Cigar Store. That evening Nash and his captors boarded a Fort Smith train bound for Kansas City.
The next day was the controversial Kansas City Massacre. Underworld figures sent thugs to spring Nash from FBI and police custody (or sent thugs to kill him to make sure Jelly could not talk about his highly-placed employers of recent years).
Originally the FBI blamed everybody but ME for being among the gunmen who attacked the authorities at the Kansas City Union Station. Nash and assorted law enforcement personnel were killed and injured.
J Edgar Hoover and the FBI spun the story as a “bad guys ambushing the good guys” tale. However, over the decades more and more evidence has come out supporting the contention that Nash and the lawmen were accidentally killed by the misfiring weapons of the lawmen themselves.
(Pretty Boy Floyd always denied having anything to do with the K.C. Massacre despite what was claimed by Hoover’s P.R. minstrels.) +++
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