1962 Gambling Raid

9 12 2010


In December 1962, OSBI Director Ralph Venamon was on business in rural Canadian County east of Mustang. According to Venamon, he decided to pay a visit to the Canadian Club, located on the Canadian/Oklahoma county line and Highway 152.

Venamon Conducts Raid

“The chief of the state crime bureau, probably one of the most well-recognized law enforcement officers in the state, walked into the Canadian Club alone late Monday night, shut down a dice game, took four persons into custody and confiscated a truck – load of gambling equipment.”

“Ralph Venamon said he was on another case in the area of the plush Canadian Club, located about two miles west of Wheatland, in Canadian County. He decided to go in and see if he could find any activity.”

“I walked in there by myself and just caught them off guard,” he said.”

“He said he walked through two doors which are opened electronically, through the main dining and drinking area, into a lounge and then to the gambling room.”

“He said he walked to the dice table where a game was in progress. He said he took $510 from the ‘bank’ and shut down the game. A  card game was going on in another part of the room, he said, but he didn’t know what kind or whether it involved gambling.”

“I visit Mr. Fletcher Handley (club operator) whenever possible” Venamon said with a smile.”


1960 Agents Group Photo

11 11 2009
1962 C

State Crime Bureau Agents (1960)

This is a photo of agents in 1960 gathered for a group photo. It appears to me this photo was taken on the grounds of the state capitol. My thanks to Charlie Ryan and Ernie Smith for helping to identify these agents. I have divided the photo into smaller sections.

1962 DShown here from left to right: agent Claude Seymour; agent Lee LeFerney, assigned to Elk City; agent Mack Hyde, assigned to eastern Oklahoma; agent Golden Kennedy, Oklahoma City; agent Tollie Bogan (correct spelling unknown); agent Bud Tatum, arson investigator; agent Fred Graves, Oklahoma City.

1962 EShown here from left to right: agent Kyle Moorehead, arson investigator; agent Bill Holt; agent Lyle Smith, assigned to Antlers; agent Ivan Gates, Oklahoma City; agent Earl Sellers; agent Ralph Venamon; agent Don K. Cunningham; agent Vernon Glenn, Vinita; agent Lyle Powell.

1962 FShown here from left to right: director Forrest Castle; unknown; agent Walter Woods, assigned to southern Oklahoma; agent Ernest Lovett, Duncan; accountant Cliff Hirshler; agent Sid Wilson, Ponca City.

Dixie Mafia, Part 2

10 11 2009

On June 18th, 1968, agents in Tennessee wrote to OSBI agent Jack Hill regarding the homicide of Pauline Pusser.

Tenn X

Page 1

Tennessee investigators had received information from an informant naming Oklahoma outlaw Albert McDonald as a suspect in the Pusser murder. McDonald was said to be the boyfriend of Cleo Epps.


Page 2

Sheriff Pusser had already travelled from Tennessee to Oklahoma in his investigation. Oklahoma and Arkansas lawmen identified Kirksey Nix Jr. as an associate of Albert McDonald. Sheriff Pusser told Oklahoma agents that it would be necessary for him to see Nix in person before he could make a positive identification on Nix as the trigger-man in the homicide.


Travelling criminals such as Albert McDonald and Kirksey Nix Jr. presented a unique challenge to law enforcement. The “Dixie Mafia” selected targets “located in towns too small to have significant, if any at all, police protection” when possible. Their robberies and burglaries involved careful planning and modern tools such as police band radios and walkie talkies. Traveling criminals were sometimes viewed as an interstate problem to be left to the FBI. But the Pauline Pusser homicide investigation brought together investigators from several southern states who began sharing information on a more formal basis. Homicide was not a federal crime and therefore not directly the jurisdiction of the FBI. 

On July 9th, 1968, TBI agent Warren Jones and Sheriff Buford Pusser traveled to Oklahoma City and met with OSBI chief agent Tom Puckett. Working together with OSBI agents Ross Wade and Tony Basolo, the Tennessee sheriff was able to see Kirksey Nix Jr. in person. After looking at Nix, the sheriff was unable to be one hundred percent certain that Nix was the shooter. 

In November 1968, investigators in Richardson, Texas, were tipped off to suspicious activity at an apartment occupied by a “Mike” Nix. Surveillance and investigation revealed the identity as that of Kirksey Nix Jr. The Richardson investigators learned that Nix was wanted as a fugitive by the FBI. Nix was arrested on November 18th, 1968. Found in the apartment were burglary tools and a police band radio. Apparently Nix did not stay in custody for long. 

The information sharing network continued to turn up the heat. Tennessee authorities contacted the Oklahoma City Police Department in January 1969 seeking intelligence information on Nix, Albert McDonald, and Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. In February 1969 Oklahoma City police and Tulsa police were notified that Nix and his associates may be in route to Oklahoma to commit a large residential robbery or burglary. Rex Armistead of the Mississippi State Police provided vehicle descriptions and tag numbers. At least one of the vehicles was reported to be equipped with a police band radio.

Nix1969x1Before the end of February 1969, Nix was wanted for murder and robbery in Louisiana. In order to avoid arrest for the Louisiana murder charge, Nix surrendered himself in Georgia on an old criminal complaint. He served one year in a Georgia prison. 

In April 1971 a home invasion robbery in Louisiana resulted in a murder. The murder victim shot the intruder, Kirksey Nix Jr. Nix fled to Dallas and was found in a hospital there by authorities. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison. But his criminal career wasn’t finished.

Dixie Mafia, Part 1

21 10 2009

Judge Kirksey Nix Sr. of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals liked to vacation in Biloxi, Mississippi in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Judge Nix became close friends of the owners of strip clubs, nightclubs, and illegal gambling halls in Biloxi. Eventually, his name began appearing in Mississippi Highway Patrol intelligence reports as a friend of career criminals. His son, Kirksey Nix Jr., joined the Air National Guard and in 1961 was stationed for a one year tour of duty at Keesler Air Force Base outside of Biloxi. Nix Jr. was discharged after the one year of service. He quickly joined his father’s friends who were running the rackets in Biloxi. He became a member of a band of loosely associated traveling criminals who specialized in sophisticated burglaries and home invasion robberies. They preferred to operate in the rural areas of southern states where local law enforcement was unprepared to deal with that kind of criminal activity. Kirksey Nix Jr. became a leading member of what would become known as the Dixie Mafia or Little Dixie Mafia.

Federal authorities in Texas charged Clifford Henry Bowen and Jerry Ray James, among others, with conspiracy to violate federal statutes: “During the period from March 13, 1964 to about April 20, 1966, the jury found that appellants traveled about the country in groups of varying size committing a number of crimes, consisting primarily of robberies of federally insured banks. The modus operandi for each robbery was basically the same. Banks located in towns too small to have significant, if any at all, police protection were chosen. The safes were assaulted but, primarily those in which the currency was kept, without much success. The silver, however, was taken and safety deposit boxes were entered.” During the same time period, Kirksey Nix Jr. was arrested in Ft. Smith, Arkansas in December 1965 with illegal automatic weapons. Thomas Lester Pugh was arrested in July 1966 for a home invasion robbery in Ft. Payne, Alabama.

Buford Hayse Pusser

Also during this time period, a sheriff in rural Tennessee was waging a war with a gang operating on the state line between Tennessee and Mississippi: “Pusser served as the Adamsville police chief and constable from 1962 to 1964. He then ran for McNairy County, Tennessee, sheriff in 1964 and won, making him at the age of 26 the youngest Tennessee sheriff in state history………. As sheriff, Pusser targeted criminal elements of the Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob. A high-ranking member of the State Line Mob was Jack Hathcock. Hathcock ran The Shamrock, a restaurant, motel and dance hall near Corinth, Mississippi, which straddled the Mississippi/Tennessee state line. The restaurant had opened in 1950, with services including gambling and prostitution. The Shamrock had a reputation for violence towards any patron who complained about crooked games. The restaurant was also the focal point for organized crime, especially bootlegging. Public records show that Jack was killed by his wife, Louise, although it was rumored that the real killer was Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. White was the infamous leader of the State Line Mob. Louise successfully claimed self defense and eventually became White’s mistress. Pusser survived several assassination attempts. On February 1, 1966, Louise Hathcock attempted to kill Pusser during an on-site investigation of a robbery complaint at The Shamrock. Hathcock fired on Pusser with a concealed .38 pistol. Pusser returned fire and killed Hathcock.Carl Douglas “Towhead” White was reported to be a close friend of Kirksey Nix Jr., the Oklahoma outlaw. White was in jail serving time for bootlegging. He allegedly phoned Nix Jr. from jail and hired him to kill Pusser.

August 12th, 1967

Kirksey Nix Jr. and three other people checked into rooms at “Towhead” White’s Shamrock motel on August 11th, 1967. Early the next day: “On the pre-dawn morning of August 12, 1967, Pusser’s phone rang, informing him of a disturbance call on New Hope Road in McNairy County. He responded, with his wife Pauline joining him for this particular ride. Shortly after they passed the New Hope Methodist on New Hope Road, two cars came alongside Pusser’s; the occupants opened fire, killing his wife and leaving Pusser, who had suffered a shotgun wound to the face, for dead. He spent eighteen days in the hospital before returning home, and would need several surgeries to restore his appearance. Pusser vowed to bring all involved with his wife’s death to justice. He identified four assassins: Louise Hathcock’s former boyfriend, Carl Douglas “Towhead” White, George McGann, Gary McDaniel, and Kirksey Nix.” Pusser traveled to Oklahoma seeking information about Nix Jr. and his Dixie Mafia associates.

Oklahoma investigators were cooperating with Pusser and agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation investigating the murder of Pauline Pusser. In North Carolina, an Oklahoma outlaw named Arlis Delbert Self was cooperating with lawmen. On May 16th and 17th, 1968, Self was questioned by investigators, including OSBI Agent Jack Hill. Self told the lawmen:

 * Self was involved in several burglaries with Thomas Lester Pugh. Sometimes they used walkie-talkies in the burglaries.

* “Lester Pugh knows Kirksey Nix real well.”

* Self heard that the Canadian Club was robbed by Donald Sparks, Lester Pugh, and possibly Jerry James.

* Self knew George Fuquay. Fuquay had robbed a club in Mississippi along with Jerry James and possibly Donald Sparks.

* Lester Pugh, Jerry James, and Donald Sparks pulled a robbery in the New Orleans area in which three people were shot.

* Self was told by Lester Pugh about the murder of John Dillon. Dillon was the passenger in the front seat of a car being driven by Ruby Charles “Bob” Jenkins, and riding in the back seat was the assassin, who crushed Dillon’s skull with a hammer.

* Self knew Al McDonald.

* Self was questioned about the killing of the sheriff’s wife in Tennessee.

* Self and Pugh suspected Cleo Epps of informing to the police. They obtained dynamite and planned to bomb the outside of her motel to “scare” her.

* Self was once offered $5000 by Cleo Epps to kill an eastern Oklahoma district attorney.

* Pugh once offered Self $5000 to kill a man in Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Four days after the interview of Self, Oklahoma officials received a wake-up call in the form of an explosion.



May 21st, 1968

Kirksey Nix Jr. drove a Cadillac to Oklahoma and delivered it to his father, Judge Nix. Jailhouse rumors claimed this was the same Cadillac used in the ambush and shooting of Pusser and his wife. One informant claimed the Cadillac was partial payment for Nix Jr.’s role in the Pusser hit. Judge Nix drove the Cadillac to work on May 21st, 1968 and parked it in his assigned parking space in the parking lot at the state capitol building. Judge Nix had been in his office about an hour when the Cadillac exploded, sending wreckage flying in every direction. The car was completely demolished, but no one was hurt. The judge could offer no explanation for the incident. Arson investigators eventually ruled that the blast “was caused by an open valve on an acetylene tank, John Guest, assistant state fire marshal, ruled. It was theorized a spark from the closing of contact points on the car’s electric clock, set off the explosion.”

Vernon Glenn, Agent (Part 1)

10 10 2009


Vernon Glenn

Vernon Glenn




VERNON GLENN served as an OSBI agent for eighteen years, from 1960 -1978. Prior to becoming an agent, Glenn was the chief of police in Vinita, Oklahoma, beginning in 1947.

While Glenn was chief of police, there had been an anthrax epidemic in Vinita. Several OSBI agents had been sent to investigate. Apparently Glenn made a favorable impression on the agents, because OSBI director Forrest Castle sent agent Golden Kennedy to Vinita to recruit Glenn. But Vernon Glenn told the agent “no” and he continued as chief of police.

Director Castle did not give up, and he personally went to Glenn, asking him to come to work as an OSBI agent. Glenn accepted the offer from Castle.

When Vernon Glenn became an agent in 1960, there were about twenty or twenty-one agents. Glenn’s salary as an agent was $4800 per year. Agent Claude Seymour issued to Glenn a Smith & Wesson .38 Chief Special, a “sawed-off” 12 gauge shotgun, handcuffs, and a “sap.” Glenn was initially assigned to work with agent Sid Wilson, who “broke him in.”

According to Vernon Glenn, during that time period “most of our cases were based on confessions.” Glenn covered most of eastern Oklahoma, in addition to an agent in McAlester and an agent in Antlers.

Glenn and agent Sid Wilson investigated numerous burglaries and robberies. Their investigations often involved a notorious underworld figure named John Dillon, who was known to buy stolen goods. John Gibson Dillon was also known as a bootlegger. In 1961 Dillon became one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted. And in 1964 Dillon was found murdered: “….. on a remote farm in Chelsea, Oklahoma, his badly decomposed body located at the bottom of a 15-feet, water-filled well, with 400 pounds of oil well drilling equipment wired to his feet and body.”

Agent Glenn had been assigned to investigate Ruby Charles “Bob” Jenkins, who specialized in bank burglaries. Jenkins would use a winch truck to haul away a bank safe at night. Glenn had arrested Jenkins several times but was never able to catch him in the act. Jenkins’ brother Clyde, also a burglar, was not so lucky. Agents Vernon Glenn and Sid Wilson found Clyde Jenkins one day wearing a suit that had been stolen in a burglary. They took him straight to jail.

In another burglary investigation, Glenn and other agents served a search warrant on the home of Thomas Lester Pugh. They recovered all of the new suits that had been stolen in the burglary. Agent Glenn arrested Pugh and Clyde Jenkins.

Vernon Glenn went to bootlegger Cleo Epps many times seeking information about Rudy Charles “Bob” Jenkins and Thomas Lester Pugh. Cleo Epps had also been associated with John Dillon. Epps never told Glenn anything.

During this time period, approximately 1960 – 1966, local and state and federal lawmen were aware that Jenkins, Pugh, and Epps were criminal associates. They were somewhat organized and exercised some of the same methods of the traditional “Mafia.” But few of the lawmen were aware of what would come to be known of as the “Dixie Mafia.” The impending crime wave would include murders across several southern states. In a way, it began with a 1967 assassination in Tennessee.

Forrest Castle, director

14 09 2009


Forrest Castle
September 23, 1960: 
Forrest Castle resigned Friday as chief of the Oklahoma crime bureau and said he plans to retire from law enforcement work, living on his farm near Tulsa.
“It’s been too much of a load,” said the 61-year-old Castle, “I’m not as young as I used to be. I want to go back to the farm where there’s peace and quiet.”
Castle stressed there has been no disagreement with the administration and he still is a close friend of Gov. J. Howard Edmondson.
Edmondson praised Castle in announcing the resignation and appointed another friend to take his place. Named chief was Ralph Venamon, 37, a long-time Hiway Patrol trooper and friend of the governor. Venamon was born in Mayes county and was a trooper 10 years before joining the crime bureau in July 1959. He has served in recent months as an agent stationed in Oklahoma City.
Castle once served as deputy sheriff at Tulsa and was an investigator in the county attorney’s office there during Edmondson’s two terms as county attorney.
“He accepted this position only temporarily and has stayed on since early in this administration at my request,” Edmondson said. “The people of Oklahoma have had in him a public servant of unquestioned honesty. His conscience devotion to his duties is a real example of public service.”
About five years after his retirement, Castle was in the news: “County Attorney Curtis P. Harris said Monday he may ask for a grand jury to investigate recently published allegations some present and past lawmakers took money in connection with a race-track bill. Harris said within the next few days he hopes to have finished a preliminary investigation into the matter and may be ready to ask Oklahoma County district judges to call the grand jury.    

House Speaker J. D. McCarty and former Senate President Pro Tempore Everett Collins, Sapulpa, were named last week in a pleading filed in district court, as having received $20,000 each to lobby for the bill.

The pleading, filed in connection with the $2 million libel suit against the Oklahoma Publishing Co. by local oil man Jack Woosley, alleged Heavener attorney Whit Pate personally paid the legislators in separate payoffs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Former State Crime Bureau Director Forrest Castle was named as the negotiator who arranged the deal between the legislators and eastern racing dog-breeders.

Woosley had filed suit against the company after a front-page story in the Daily Oklahoman on Sept. 16 allegedly distorted facts about Woosley”s past life and contained a police mug shot made 27 years ago.”