Today in History: July 22

On this date in 1934, federal agents shot and killed a man while he was watching a movie in a theater.

Now, that man was John Dillinger, and he had in fact robbed about a dozen banks and he had escaped prison, but nothing he had done impelled federal attention (he was accused of killing a police officer)—except that he was attracting national attention, “bad guy getting away with it” attention, and was receiving more positive media coverage than J. Edgar Hoover’s Division of Investigation (the precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and his “G-Men.”

After viewing Manhattan Melodrama in Chicago’s Biograph Theater, Dillinger stepped outside, detected the presence of law officers out to get him, and ran into an alley, where three G-Men pursued him and each one of them fired his weapon.

The one official justification for naming Dillinger the first-ever national “Public Enemy Number 1” was the accusation that he had driven a stolen car across a state line, from Indiana to Illinois. Not the shooting murder of the police officer. Not the bank robberies.

With Dillinger’s killing, Hoover’s request for funding for what would become the FBI (the Federal Bureau of Investigation)—an independent crime-fighting body that sometimes needs to very publicly hunt criminals (and often catch them, it must be said) to justify growing its budget—was easily fulfilled by the government. The FBI was officially created the next year. Hoover held onto the top job until his death in 1972.

And so we have to this day our country’s almost unique national investigatory police force.

* * * *
Emma Lazarus was born on this date in 1849. Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy was born on this date in 1890. Alexander Calder was born on this date in 1898. Stephen Vincent Benét was also born in 1898 on this date. The late Oscar de la Renta was born on thus date in 1932.

* * * *
Senator Bob Dole is 93 today. Orson Bean is 88. Tom Robbins is 84 today. Louise Fletcher is 82. Terence Stamp is 78. Alex Trebek is 76. George Clinton (George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic) is 75. Sparky Lyle is 72. Danny Glover is 70. Albert Brooks is 69. Don Henley is 69. Al Di Meola is 62. Willem Dafoe is 61. David Spade is 52. John Leguizamo is 52.

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