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|Robert Franklin Stroud|
Robert Stroud's mugshot from 1951
January 28, 1890|
Seattle, Washington, United States
|Died||November 21, 1963
Springfield, Missouri, United States
|Alias(es)||The Birdman of Alcatraz|
|Charge(s)||manslaughter, 1909; assault, 1912; murder, 1916|
|Penalty||Manslaughter – 12 years imprisonment; Assault – 6 months imprisonment; Murder – Death, commuted to life imprisonment|
|Occupation||Salesman , Ornithologist|
|Spouse||Della Mae Jones|
Robert Franklin Stroud (January 28, 1890 – November 21, 1963), known as the "Birdman of Alcatraz", was a federal American prisoner who reared and sold birds and became an ornithologist. Despite his nickname, he actually kept birds only at Leavenworth Penitentiary, before he was transferred to Alcatraz, where he was not allowed to keep pets. Stroud is one of the most notorious criminals in American history.
Arrest, trial and imprisonment
Stroud was born in Seattle, the eldest child of German Americans Ann Elizabeth and Benjamin Franklin Stroud, although his mother had two daughters from a previous marriage. His father was an abusive alcoholic and Stroud ran away from home at the age of 13. By the time he was 18, Stroud had made his way to Cordova, Alaska, where he met 36-year-old Kitty O’Brien, a prostitute and dance-hall entertainer, for whom he pimped.
According to Stroud, on January 18, 1909, while he was away at work, an acquaintance of theirs, barman F. K. "Charlie" Von Dahmer, had allegedly failed to pay O'Brien for her services. After finding out about the incident that night, Stroud confronted Von Dahmer and a struggle ensued, resulting in the latter's death from a gunshot wound. Stroud went to the police station and turned himself and the gun in. According to police reports, Stroud had knocked Von Dahmer unconscious and then shot him at point-blank range.
Stroud's mother Elizabeth retained a lawyer for her son, but he was found guilty of manslaughter on August 23, 1909 and sentenced to 12 years in the federal penitentiary on Puget Sound's McNeil Island. Stroud's crime was handled in the Federal system, as Alaska at that time was still a Federal territory, and not a state with its own judiciary.
Known as Prisoner #1853-M, Stroud was one of the most violent prisoners at McNeil Island.
Stroud assaulted a hospital orderly who had reported him to the prison administration for attempting to obtain morphine through threats and intimidation, and had also reportedly stabbed a fellow inmate who was involved in the attempt to smuggle the narcotics. On September 5, 1912, Stroud was sentenced to an additional six months for the attacks and was transferred from McNeil Island to the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Then on March 26, 1916 after being there six months, Stroud was reprimanded by cafeteria guard, Andrew F. Turner, for a minor rule violation which would have annulled Stroud's visitation privilege to meet his younger brother, whom he had not seen in eight years. Angry at Turner about this, he stabbed Turner to death in a furious rage.
Stroud was convicted of murder and sentenced to execution by hanging on May 2nd. He was ordered to await his death sentence in solitary confinement. The sentence was thrown out in December by the U.S. Supreme Court, because the jury had not said that it intended for Stroud to hang. In a second trial held in May 1917, he was also convicted, but received a life sentence. That sentence was also thrown out by the Supreme Court on constitutional grounds.[clarification needed] Stroud was tried a third time starting in May 1918, and on June 28 he was again sentenced to death by hanging. The Supreme Court intervened again, but only to uphold the death sentence, which was scheduled to be carried out on April 23, 1920.
At this point Stroud's mother appealed to President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, and the execution was halted and  Stroud's sentence was again commuted to life imprisonment. Leavenworth's warden, T. W. Morgan, strongly opposed the decision given Stroud's reputation for violence. Morgan persuaded Wilson to stipulate that since Stroud was originally sentenced to await his death sentence in solitary confinement, those conditions should prevail until the halted execution could be carried out. This in effect sentenced Stroud to a lifetime in solitary.
On December 19, 1942, Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz, where he spent six years in segregation and another 11 confined to the hospital wing. In 1959, Stroud was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where he stayed until his death in 1963.
In 1963, Richard M. English, a young lawyer who had campaigned for John F. Kennedy in California, took to the cause of securing Stroud's release. He met with former President Harry Truman to enlist support, but Truman declined. He also met with senior Kennedy administration officials who were studying the subject. English took the last photo of Stroud, in which he is shown with a green visor. The warden of the prison attempted to have English prosecuted for bringing something into the prison he did not take out: unexposed film. The authorities declined to take any action.
Upon Stroud's death, his personal property, including original manuscripts, was delivered to English, as his last legal representative, who later turned over some of the possessions to the Audubon Society.
The Birdman of Leavenworth
While at Leavenworth, Stroud found a nest of injured sparrows in the prison yard and raised them to adulthood. Prisoners were sometimes allowed to buy canaries, and by the early 1920s, Stroud had several. He started to occupy his time raising and caring for his birds, which he could sell for supplies and to help support his mother. Soon thereafter, Leavenworth’s administration changed and the prison was then directed by a new warden. Impressed with the possibility of presenting Leavenworth as a progressive rehabilitation penitentiary, the new warden furnished Stroud with cages, chemicals, and stationery to conduct his ornithological activities. Visitors were shown Stroud's aviary and many purchased his canaries. Over the years, he raised nearly 300 canaries in his cells and wrote two books, Diseases of Canaries, and a later edition, Stroud's Digest on the Diseases of Birds, with updated specific information. He made several important contributions to avian pathology, most notably a cure for the hemorrhagic septicemia family of diseases. He gained respect and also some level of sympathy in the bird-loving field.
Stroud’s activities created problems for the prison management. According to regulations, each letter sent or received at the prison had to be read, copied and approved. Stroud was so involved in his business that this alone required a full-time prison secretary. Additionally, most of the time his birds were permitted to fly freely within his cells and because of the great number of birds he kept, his cell was dirty. Stroud’s personal hygiene was also reported as gruesome.
In 1931, an attempt to force Stroud to discontinue his business and get rid of his birds failed after Stroud and one of his mail correspondents, a bird researcher from Indiana named Della Mae Jones, made his story known to newspapers and magazines and undertook a massive letter- and petition-writing campaign that climaxed in a 50,000-signature petition being sent to the President. The public complaints resulted in Stroud being permitted to keep his birds — despite massive prison overcrowding he was even given a second cell to house them — but his letter-writing privileges were greatly curtailed. Jones and Stroud grew so close that she moved to Kansas in 1931 and started a business with him, selling his medicines.
Prison officials, fed up with Stroud's activities and their attendant publicity, intensified their efforts to transfer him out of Leavenworth. Stroud, however, discovered a Kansas law that forbade the transfer of prisoners married in Kansas. To this end, he married Jones by proxy, which infuriated the prison's administrators, who would not allow him to correspond with his wife. Prison officials were not the only ones unhappy with Stroud's marriage; his mother was also incensed. They had a close relationship, but Elizabeth Stroud strongly disapproved of the marriage to Jones, believing women were nothing but trouble for her son. Whereas previously she had been a strong advocate for her son, helping him with legal battles, she now argued against his application for parole, and became a major obstacle in his attempts to be released from the prison system. She moved away from Leavenworth and refused any further contact with him until her death in 1937.
In 1933, Stroud advertised in a publication that he had not received any royalties from the sales of Diseases of Canaries. In retaliation, the publisher complained to the warden and, as a result, proceedings were initiated to transfer Stroud to Alcatraz, where he would not be permitted to keep his birds. In the end, however, Stroud was able to keep both his birds and canary-selling business. Stroud avoided trouble for several more years, until it came to light that some of the equipment Stroud had requested for his lab was in fact being used as a home-made still to distill alcohol. Officials finally had the wedge they needed to drive Stroud out.
Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz on December 19, 1942. While there, he wrote two manuscripts: Bobbie, an autobiography, and Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau of Prisons. A judge ruled that Stroud had the right to write and keep such manuscripts, but upheld the warden’s decision to ban their publication. After Stroud's death, the transcripts were delivered to his lawyer, Robert English.
Stroud spent more than 17 years in Alcatraz. He was allowed access to the prison library and began studying law. Stroud began petitioning the government that his long prison term amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. In 1959, with his health failing, Stroud was transferred to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. However, his attempts to be released were unsuccessful. On November 21, 1963, the day before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Franklin Stroud died at the Springfield Medical Center at the age of 73, having been incarcerated for the last 54 years of his life, of which 42 were in solitary confinement. He had been studying French near the end of his life.
Biography and popular culture
- Stroud became the subject of a 1955 book by Thomas E. Gaddis, Birdman of Alcatraz. This was adapted by Guy Trosper for the 1962 film of the same name, directed by John Frankenheimer. It starred Burt Lancaster as Stroud, Karl Malden as a fictionalized and renamed warden, and Thelma Ritter as Stroud's mother. Stroud was never allowed to see the film.
- Sterling Holloway played a Stroud-like character in Gilligan's Island: Season 3, Episode 28, The Pigeon (3 Apr. 1967). This episode is about a bird, but is remembered mainly for the gargantuan spider. Gilligan befriends a homing pigeon and the Professor has a plan to tie a note on it to help them get rescued. The pigeon's owner, a Birdman of Alcatraz type, receives the notes but doesn't take them seriously. When the bird flies back to the island, it becomes endangered in a cave with a 6-foot black morning spider. Note: The giant spider was first seen on the series "Lost in Space" in the 33rd episode entitled "The Forbidden World."
- He was also the (musical) subject of the instrumental "Birdman of Alcatraz" from Rick Wakeman's Criminal Record (1977), a concept album about criminality.
- He figured as a minor character in the 1979 film Escape From Alcatraz.
- Dennis Farina played Stroud in the 1987 TV movie Six Against the Rock, a dramatization of the Battle of Alcatraz of 1946.
- In the cyberpunk game series Galerians (first released in 1999), Birdman is the name of one of the game's antagonists.
- In the manga and anime Katekyo Hitman Reborn! (2004-present), a character named Birds, an escaped mafia hitman who uses birds, is based on Robert Stroud.
- In the cartoon Superjail! (whose pilot aired in 2007 and series began in 2008), the character of Gary, who always appears with a small yellow bird on his shoulder, is an allusion to Robert Stroud.
- In the video game Team Fortress 2, there is a miscellaneous item for the Demoman based on Robert Stroud's nickname. Called The Bird-Man of Aberdeen, it is a green-and-yellow Macaw that sits on the Demoman's shoulder.
- The song The Birdman by Our Lady Peace is about Robert Stroud.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Robert Stroud|
- Gregory, George H. (28 April 2008). Alcatraz Screw: My Years as a Guard in America's Most Notorious Prison. University of Missouri Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-8262-1396-9. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Weekly World News. Weekly World News. 29 March 1994. p. 21. ISSN 0199574X. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Ryan, James Gilbert; Schlup, Leonard C. (30 June 2006). Historical Dictionary of The 1940s. M.E. Sharpe. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-7656-0440-8. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Benton, Lisa M. (1998). The Presidio: From Army Post to National Park. UPNE. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-55553-335-9. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
- Officer Andrew Turner ODMP memorial
- article on Robert Stroud by website of Time magazine
- "Robert Stroud". Find A Grave. 2001-01-01. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
- Gilligan's Island: Season 3, Episode 28, The Pigeon at IMDB
- Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story at IMDB
- Six Against the Rock at MovieTome.com
(( Birdman-robert franklin stroud manslaughter-12 years silenced assault 6 months murder-life sentenced. Born-january 28 1890 seattle washington u.s america Died-died november 21 1963 springfield missouri u.s america. - BRANDON SWOPE 5/23/13))