Kate "Ma" Barker

After being abandoned by her husband of 35 years, Kate “Ma” Barker encouraged her sons’ criminal lifestyle and became the mastermind of the infamous Barker-Karpis gang of Chicago.

Kate Barker's Life

Kate "Ma" Barker was born Arizon Donnie Clark in 1873 in Ash Grove, Missouri. She married George Barker in 1892 and gave birth to four boys, Herman (1893), Lloyd (1897), Arthur (1899), and Fred (1901). By 1910, the family had moved to Oklahoma for Mr. Barker's work.

The Barker boys started committing crimes as early as 1910. They were repeatedly involved in gangs, and the seriousness of their crimes increased as they got older.

In 1927, Herman died after a failed robbery. He shot an officer point-blank in the mouth, then turned the gun on himself. After the death of Herman, Mr. Barker left the family to avoid connection with the criminal lifestyle of his wife and children.

Barker-Karpis Gang

From 1928-1931 the Barker boys were in prison, while Ma Barker lived a life of poverty and "looseness" with men in the city.

In 1931, Fred Barker was released from prison and created the Barker-Karpis Gang with former prison inmate, Alvin Karpis.

On December 9, 1931, Fred and Alvin killed Sheriff Roy Kelly in Missouri, which forced Ma and the gang to flee Oklahoma. A manhunt ensued for Fred and Alvin, with Ma listed as an accomplice.

When Arthur was released from prison in 1932, he quickly joined Karpis and his brother, spreading terror throughout St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois. During the 1930s Ma was portrayed in the media as a ruthless killed who would plot and protect the gang at all costs.

The Shootout in Oklawaha

From 1931-1935 the gange was highly sought after by the FBI. On January 16, 1935m the feds swarmed a house in Oklawaha Florida, resulting in a four-hour shootout. Karpis and the others had left the house three days prior, leaving Ma and Fred alone. Once the smoke cleared, both Ma and Fred were dead.

Arthur Barker and karpis continued, despite losing two of the founders of the gang. In November 1935, the boys robbed a mail train in Ohio. The Barker-Karpis gang quickly became Public Enemy #1, with Alvin Karpis as the leader.

In January 1936, Postal Inspectors found Alvin Karpis hiding in New Orleans. Without a single shot fired, Karpis was detained, and the Barker-Karpis gang was finally dismantled.


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