AKA Melvin Horace Purvis, Jr.
Birthplace: Timmonsville, SC
Location of death: Florence, SC
Cause of death: Suicide
Remains: Buried, Mt. Hope Cemetery, Florence, SC
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Law Enforcement
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Top G-man of the 1930s
Military service: US Army (Lt. Col., WWII)
According to contemporary news accounts, Melvin Purvis never fired his gun in the line of duty, though he was the FBI's top investigator during the gangland era of the 1930s, and led the manhunts that killed John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson. Adam Richetti and Vern Sankley were among the criminals who survived being captured by Purvis to face prosecution. When he left the Bureau after Dillinger's killing he was considered a national hero, having apprehended more public enemies than any other FBI agent. Some observers believe he was pressured to quit by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who disliked having the media's attention diverted from himself.
Before and after his eight years with the feds, Purvis worked as an attorney. He also served in the military during World War II and later owned WOLS (now WOLH), a radio station in Florence, South Carolina. He killed himself on 29 February 1960, reportedly using the same pistol he had worn the night he and his men cornered Dillinger near the Biograph Theater in Chicago. His son, Melvin Purvis III, ran and lost in South Carolina's 1984 Senate election against Strom Thurmond.
Father: Melvin Horace Purvis (tobacco farmer, b. 16-Sep-1869, d. 18-Jan-1938 pneumonia)
Mother: Janie Elizabeth Mims Purvis (b. 16-Aug-1874, m. 14-Mar-1894, d. 9-Aug-1927)
Sister: Nell Eulalia Purvis Davidson (b. 23-Feb-1895, d. 3-Nov-1979)
Girlfriend: Janice Jarratt (actress, b. 1914)
Wife: Marie Rosanne Willcox Purvis (childhood sweetheart, b. 31-Jan-1908, m. 22-Aug-1931)
Son: Melvin Horace Purvis III (Christian minister, b. 1940, d. 1986)
Son: Philip Alston Wilcox Purvis (graphic artist, b. Sep-1943)
Son: Christopher Peronneau Purvis (b. 2-Feb-1950, d. 1984)
Law School: University of South Carolina (1925)
FBI employee (1927-35)
Author of books:
American Agent (1936)
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