Melvin Purvis was a lawyer before he joined the Bureau of Investigation
in 1927. He excelled as a field agent and in 1932 was put in charge of
the Chicago field office.
Purvis was a brave, well-educated man and a crack shot. He was nervous and high-strung but admired by his agents.
After Dillinger's escape from the Crown Point Jail, Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover put Purvis in charge of the Dillinger case.
Special agents received a tip that Dillinger's gang was hiding out at the "Little Bohemia" lodge in Wisconsin, and Purvis sent agents out. In the end, an agent and a bystander were killed, and the gang escaped.
On July 22, 1934, Purvis received a call from a Dillinger insider, Anna Sage, telling him John Dillinger would be at the theater that night. Purvis and other agents found Dillinger after the show at the Biograph Theater in Chicago, where Dillinger was shot and killed.
The notoriety surrounding the Dillinger case made Purvis instantly famous. Hoover allegedly became jealous of his popularity. Hoover made it known that no single agent should be singled out as solving any case, as it is an agency-wide success.
It has been said that Hoover made it difficult for Purvis after the fame of the Dillinger shooting, forcing Purvis to leave the FBI, and continued to sabotage Purvis's attempts to find other law enforcement employment.
Purvis served as a Colonel in World War II. In 1960, Purvis died in his home from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to the head.
Visit the John Dillinger Museum to discover more about
the gangsters and g-men of the 30's.