I was a cop for the City of Liberty, MO, in the 1980s. Liberty is one of the oldest cities in Missouri, founded in 1822.
It is the county seat of Clay County and home of William Jewell College, a Baptist-based school. Most residents during the Civil War were southern sympathizers. The Confederate flag flew over the courthouse until World War I.
When I worked there, the place was pretty conservative. There were only a few city liquor licenses and the town pretty much rolled up the sidewalks at sundown.
Perhaps the city's biggest claim to fame was that it was the location of the first daylight bank robbery in the U.S., in 1866. A citizen on the town square tried to stop the robbers and was shot dead. The Clay County sheriff was also wounded. The robbery was led by the James Gang.
While I worked in Liberty, the old bank building was the Jesse James Bank Museum. Every year, police would block off the town square while "re-enactors" would ride up to the bank, go in, and then ride off "shooting" people.
It bothered me that society was celebrating outlaws who stole money from the town's hard-working people, murdered one person, and shot the lone lawman for the entire county. It really bothered me that as a police officer, I was forced to help block off the streets.
I was reminded of this, when Rush Limbaugh was up for induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians.
Since Missouri's Speaker of the House, Rep. Steve Tilley, a Republican, said Limbaugh should be in the Hall of Fame because he was “famous,” then what about Jesses James and his Gang? Who hasn't heard of Jesse James? Is there a bust of Jesse James in the statehouse? Not likely.
So, I propose a second wing for Missourians who were famous—but not always nice.
We'll start with Jesse James. And include some of his comrades.
William Quantrill, who led raiders into Lawrence, Kansas and killed men, women and children, then burned the town to the ground. Quantrill was not born in Missouri, but lived with and married his 13-year-old bride in Blue Springs. Quantrill didn't just kill in Kansas. He and his group killed plenty of Missourians in pro-Union towns.
Then, there is William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, who grew up in Missouri and was known not only for riding with Quantrill’s Raiders and Jesse James, but was well-known for murdering Union soldiers after they surrendered, and killing blacks living in pro-Union Missouri towns.
Now the duo of Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Emily Brown Heady should be in this new wing of Famous Missourians, too. This couple set the then-record for “largest ransom” ever paid, after they kidnapped six-year-old Bobby Greenlease from a Kansas City school. The Greenlease family paid $600,000 in ransom, but Bobby was murdered anyway.
Hall and Heady made Missouri famous on other levels, too. The ransom money and Hall were found at the Coral Courts Motel on Watson Road in the Village of Marlborough. That really put the motel on the map.
Heady was also one of only two women since 1865 to be executed by Federal authorities.
Then there was Lt. Lou Shoulders, a St. Louis police officer who arrested Hall at the motel. Shoulders turned in $288,000 of the ransom money, the other $322,000 disappeared while being driven from the Coral Courts to the police station. All three of these folks should have a bust in my new wing!
From the east side of Missouri, it's hard to ignore Dr. Glennon Engleman, who killed people over four decades—usually as part of life insurance fraud. He used guns, knives, bats and dynamite. His crime scenes included Art Hill in front of the Art Museum, an empty drag strip in Pacific, homes in Illinois and Missouri, and a car blown up in a driveway.
From the west side of the state, there is Bob Berdella of Kansas City. Berdella was every bit of the serial killer that Jeffery Dahmer was, but he lacked a good public relations agent.
Berdella ran an Occult shop in Kansas City’s Westport area that attracted a number of young misfits. Over the years, Bob would lure young men to his home, where he would chain them up, torture, kill and butcher them, then put the remains in a basement freezer before feeding it to his dog. He kept extensive notes.
Berdella’s discovery came when his last victim escaped wearing only a dog collar. He was so famous at the time that people were reading about him in the Chinese press.
Berdella then became famous for the way he beat the death penalty for his crimes. He pulled a fast one by pleading guilty at his arraignment, before the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office filed the paperwork for a death sentence. The judge had no choice but to sentence Berdella to life in prison, where he died of a heart attack four years later.
Then, there is Ken Rex McElroy who was featured on television's 60 Minutes, written about in a book, and represented in a movie. How much more famous do you have to be?
McElroy is from the small northwest Missouri town of Skidmore and was known as the Skidmore bully. He had been accused of auto theft, cattle rustling, arson and rape, but never convicted because everyone was afraid to testify against him.
McElroy was eventually killed in broad daylight after an elderly local grocer kicked McElroy's kids out of his store for shoplifting and McElroy threatened to kill the well-liked grocer. While many witnessed the murder, no one from 1981 to this day has said who did it.
In the political arena, there is former State Sen. Jeff Smith. A documentary film was made about Smith running for Congress.
Smith was portrayed as the last of the honest politicians who wanted to help people. In 2009 he was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice for lying to FBI agents.
Smith was associated with a fundraiser, Milton Ohslen, III who was later convicted of bank fraud, weapons violations, spousal abuse, drug dealing and is the prime suspect in setting off a car bomb in Clayton trying to kill his wife’s attorney. It seems to me that both Smith and Ohslen are plenty famous and good candidates for my new wing.
Now think about your college-age daughter or remember your sister or even your mother when she was in college. If contraception was part of the picture, she would have been like the majority of women her age. How would you like someone on a national radio program to call her a whore and prostitute?
For this reason, I think Rush Limbaugh would be perfect for my proposed new wing of the Hall of Famous Missourians.