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Ma Barker: America’s Most Wanted Mother


“I’ll never have a close relationship with anyone other than my boys. After all, they know what my heart sounds like on the inside.” With that being said, Arizona Barker, Ma Barker to the world, set out to raise four sons to be criminals. It’s believed by many that the Ma Barker image was originated by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI in an effort to justify the killing of an old lady. She has been portrayed as the mastermind of the Barker-Karpis gang, while surviving gang members absolutely denied the allegations. However, evidence indicates that she was much more involved in criminal activity than some think, whether she was the “mastermind” or not is debatable.

To say the least, she was a willing accomplice, if nothing else. Arizona Donnie Clark was born near Springfield, Missouri, the exact year is not known, though most agree that she was born on October 8, 1873. In 1892, she married George Barker and in time gave birth to four of the meanest examples of humanity ever to exist! The boys were named Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred. After the birth of Fred, George Barker left the family, though it may have been at the insistence of his wife. At some point, she began using the name Kate Barker. On several occasions Kate faced the authorities on behalf of her sons, trying to keep them from serving jail time. She was usually successful. It all came to an end for Ma in early 1925.

Posing as J.E. Blackburn and wife, Ma and her son Freddie rented a house on the northern banks of Lake Weir, near the town of Ocklawaha, Florida. The neighbors thought they were an odd couple with him being so young and her being so much older. They didn’t associate with the neighbors and frequently large cars were seen entering and leaving the place. Unknown to the Barkers, the FBI had the map they had taken from Doc’s apartment and had been checking their mail through the postal service to positively identify them.

Disguised as county road workers, the FBI kept surveillance on the house. Upon seeing the Blackburns, the FBI positively identified the Barkers. The FBI was under the impression that several members of the gang were in the house. Just before daybreak on January 16, 1935, the FBI arrived outside the two-story house. There were agents from Jacksonville, reinforced by agents who had been flown in from Chicago and Cincinnati. A call for their surrender was met with no response. After a few moments, Agent Earl Connelly of Cincinnati yelled, “Unless you come on out, we’re going to start shooting!” Ma replied, “Go ahead.” What followed was the longest gun battle the FBI was ever involved in; it lasted four hours and there are reports that a minimum of 1500 rounds of ammunition were poured into the house. The FBI requested that the bodies of Ma and Freddie be held in a morgue for an extended time, thinking that other gang members would show up to pay their respects – and be captured. Eight months later, they were removed from the morgue, transported to Welch, Oklahoma and buried alongside Herman, in the Williams Timberhill Cemetery.

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To learn more about the life and violent death of Ma Barker and her sons read

Ma Barker: America’s Most Wanted Mother