Wednesday, February 12, 2014 12:00 AM
On October 19, 1934, officers of the Sheriff's Department at Gulfport, Mississippi, arrested the story book bandit and charged him with bank robbery and burglary.
Again, a local court sentenced him to fifteen years in the State Penitentiary at Parchman State Farm in the Mississippi delta, but other authorities released him to the Sheriff's Office at Camden, Arkansas.
There, Chapman received an additional fifteen year sentence for bank robbery, grand larceny and burglary and was returned to the Arkansas State Prison at Tucker, Arkansas, on October 24, 1934.
For a brief period, he was returned to the Sheriff's Office at El Dorado, Arkansas, and on December 4, 1934, he received another fifteen year sentence, again for bank robbery.
Less than two years later, Chapman escaped the state penitentiary at the Cummins Farm Prison Unit, Lincoln County, Arkansas, on Tuesday night, August 25, 1936.
Headlines of The Arkansas Gazette of Little Rock told the story, "Fleeing Thugs Believed Out Of Arkansas."
Agents of the FBI joined in a search for the escapees: Charlie Chapman, serving 15 years for bank robbery; Lewis Sadler, 28 years for bank robbery in Clark County; Ollie Lindsey, 21 years for bank robbery and kidnapping in Ashley County and Charles O'Keith, bank robbery, murder and furlough violation.
Freedom was brief for two of the Arkansas convicts, Chapman and Lindsey, as both were apprehended during a failed robbery, thwarted by local town folk of Atlanta, Cass County, Texas, on August 31, 1936.
Tom Johnson, a hardware store shopkeeper, fired a bullet that "ripped" through the shoulder of Chapman, dropping him as he fled out of the bank's front door, and $1,928 in cash was recovered.
Lindsey surrendered near the edge of town, after running through a barrage of about 20 rounds fired by armed citizens.
"Goodtime Charlie," another nickname for Chapman, was moved to a local hospital, under guard, for treatment of his "not critical" wound.
Other lawmen jailed Lindsey in Marshall, Texas.
This robbery was the second time the depression bandit had visited the First National Bank of Atlanta, previously robbing it on June 6, 1934, kidnapping the assistant cashier and releasing him "many miles from the scene of the robbery."
The two men were convicted in state court at Linden, Texas, with long sentences and imprisonment at Eastham State Prison Farm near Weldon, Texas.
One newsman noted that, "Robbing banks is by no means Chapman's sole accomplishment. He is most adept at cracking out of gaol."
The walls of the Eastham prison held the story book bandit for only seven months.
In the early morning of July 7, 1936, nine inmates, including Charlie Chapman, broke out of the compound, armed with two rifles, obtained from unknown sources.
During their break for freedom, one prison guard suffered a wound, and one of the prisoners died in the attempt - an unlucky man serving a short sentence for stealing chickens.
The above quoted reporter, James Shipley, of a Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper, also wrote: "Almost before the luckless chicken thief had choked on his last breath, guards rounded up four of the other convicts."
However, as fate has it, three of the most dangerous inmates fled to freedom - Roy P. Trexler, a notorious Oklahoma outlaw, Fred Tindol, serving a life term for a robbery with firearms and Goodtime Charlie.
Two days later, Dallas State Highway Patrol headquarters announced that four of the convicts that escaped from Eastham prison farm manhandled three patrolmen near Alto, Texas, and drove two stolen patrol cars toward Nacogdoches, Texas.
Days later, two of the desperados flashed their guns on the streets of Kingston, Oklahoma, and kidnapped two locals.
The hostages later over-powered the exhausted thugs, and showing no mercy, killed Tindol and wounded Traxler.
Chapman, who many thought had phenomenal luck, had just left Tindol and Traxler, two days earlier in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
During the remainder of 1937 and early 1938, Chapman continued to elude FBI agents, state highway patrolmen, local law officials and others, last being seen at Ada, Oklahoma, on July 19, 1937.
After leading his pursuers through east and west Oklahoma, south Arkansas, north and east Texas, Charlie Chapman evidently decided to return to his home in east central Mississippi, an area filled with friendly relatives and others who worshipped their latter-day Robin Hood for his crusade against the "robber-baron" bankers.
Two men, fully aware of Chapman's deeds and exploits expressed their thoughts in print.
Shipley, the Birmingham pundit wrote: "Chapman is an ordinary looking person. His mouth, definitely weak, is curved downward in a sort of perpetual snarl. He is surly and gruff - a bad actor under pressure."
Walter V. McLaughlin, FBI Agent in Charge of the Huntington, West Virginia, field office declared: "Chapman has the reputation of being one of the cleverest and most dangerous bank robbers who have operated in this country." (Final episode - February 19, 2014).*
*Factual information for this article was obtained from a binder in the Neshoba County Public Library that contains copies of a FBI informational report as well as a series of newspaper articles from multiple newspapers across the country written as the events occurred. Included among others: St. Paul, Mn., Daily News & Pioneer Press; Little Rock, Ar., Democrat & Gazette; Meridian, Ms., Star; Dallas, Tx., Daily News; Milwaukee, Wi., Journal; New York, N.Y., Herald-Tribune; Washington D.C., Star & Post; Houston, Tx., Press; Clarksburg, W.V., Telegram; Seattle, Wa, Times; New Orleans, La., State Times; Pittsburg, Pa., Press & Sun Telegraph; Huntington, W.V., Advertiser; Cincinnati, Oh., Post; and Texarkana, Tx., Gazette.
Civil War Veterans
Copeland, David W. - Private; enlisted April 21, 1861, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-three; farmer.
Wounded (first and second tarsal fractured) at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; hospitalized with a gunshot wound in the left foot at Chimborazo Hospital #5 at Richmond, Virginia, July 17 to August 3, 1863.
Furloughed for forty days, August 3, 1863; Muster Roll, May-June 1864: "Wounded July 3/63. Absent without leave;" Muster Roll, July-August 1864: "Present."
Retired and assigned to Invalid Corps, September 8, 1864; Muster Roll, October 1864: "Wounded July 3, 1863 and retired Sept. 5  for six months."
World War II Veterans
Copeland, Quinton - Private to Staff Sergeant; enlisted on August 2, 1939, at Montgomery, Alabama, in the United States Army; age twenty; farm hand; nicknamed "Stout."
Served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations, December 1939 to February 1943.
Stationed at Schofield Barracks on Oahu Island, Territory of Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked that island on December 7, 1941.
Served again in the American Theatre at Camp Beale, Sacramento, California, March 1943; served too in the European Theatre of Operations as a platoon sergeant with Company G of the 28th Infantry "Keystone" Division.
Qualified as an expert firing the carbine, M-1 rifle and as a marksman with the automatic rifle; participated in the campaigns in Northern France and the Rhineland.
Wounded in action in Germany, November 26, 1944; awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, American Defense Service Medal (with one bronze service star), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star), European-African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with two bronze service stars) and the Purple Heart.
Discharged at Fort McPherson Georgia, August 3, 1945, demobilization; described as five feet six and three-quarters inches tall, weighing 135 pounds, with brown hair and grey eyes.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday