Tough Tommy Holden – 1928

By | November 12, 2016

“A menace to every man, woman and child in America”


Thomas Holden, centre, hardly looks like one of the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives”


Thomas James Holden was the first man to be listed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list when it was released on 14 March 1950. Holden’s career began in the 1920s, robbing banks and payrolls with his partner Frank Keating. They also held up mail trains. Two of their gang, Frank Weber and Charles Harmon, murdered a hostage during a bank robbery at Memonimie, Wisconsin and Holden and Keating were furious. Not long after, the bodies of Weber and Harmon were discovered in a ditch — Holden and Keating had executed both men.

In 1928 they robbed a train in Evergreen Park, Chicago, leading to them being nicknamed the Evergreen Bandits. Their luck was out as both were caught and sent to Leavenworth. They escaped in December 1931 using forged passes and fled to Kansas City where they joined the Barker-Karpis Gang (search the related article), robbing several banks. On 7 July 1932 Holden, Keating and Harvey Bailey were arrested on a golf course at Kansas City, Missouri.

A fourth villain, Frank Nash, escaped because he was a poor player and had got left behind. Among the arresting officers was Special Agent Raymond Caffrey who would be killed aged 31 on 17 June 1933 in the Kansas City Massacre (search the related article).

Holden was paroled from Leavenworth Prison on 28 November 1947 but could not keep out of trouble. On 5 June 1949 Holden was drinking with his family in Chicago when he and his wife fell into an argument.

He shot her dead and then turned his gun on her two brothers, an action that led to his place in the FBI list. An FBI spokesman said that Holden was “a menace to every man, woman and child in America”. He had fled Illinois, and was charged with unlawful flight across state lines on 4 November 1949. Holden adopted the name John McCullough and began working in Oregon as a plasterer. An local recognized Holden from his picture in a local newspaper and the FBI arrested him on 23 June 1951.


Evergreen Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA




Holden died in Illinois State Prison in 1953.


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