The Anglin Brothers
Clarence "Larry" Anglin & John William Anglin

Clarence "Larry" Anglin

John William Anglin
Celebrating 50 years of freedom June 12, 2012

Fox 13 News Story January 17, 2012:
From Ruskin to Alcatraz and back?

From the San Francisco Chronicle
 15 June 1962:

The escaped convicts are Frank L. Morris, 35, a Louisiana bank robber, whose cell adjoined West’s, and the two bank robbing Angling brothers of Ruskin, Fla., John, 32, and Clarence, 31.

The men were missing at the 7:15 a.m. head count on Tuesday. Guards found life-like dummies in their prison cots. Air vents in an eight-inch concrete wall had been enlarged with table spoons to give passage to a utility corridor.

Guards found that the escapers climbed utility pipes to the top of the three-tier cell block and then reached the roof by bending a steel bar in the 14-inch shaft of an air condition vent.


Fred T. Wilkinson, assistant director of Federal Prisons, who flew here from Washington when the break was discovered, said yesterday that the path of the escapers to the water has now definitely been determined.

Broken bushes and other signs show “almost the precise trail” the men took to the water’s edge on the north side of the island after they shimmied down a kitchen vent pipe form the roof of the main prison structure.

The search that followed the discovery of the escape immediately disclosed that a hole had been cut in the wall of West’s cell, as The Chronicle reported exclusively yesterday.

Why West declined to go along on the escape is a question that still is unanswered.

“I didn’t want to leave,” is all that he has said.


Wilkinson, formerly warden at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, knew all four convicts before they were transferred to Alcatraz, and says he is satisfied the plotters had no outside help.

“These men have neither friends nor relatives with the resources to come to San Francisco and spend the time and money necessary to help in an escape,” said Wilkinson. “It would cost thousands of dollars to put a boat in the bay every night, say for a month, waiting for the right night.”

Wilkinson said it was a matter of long prison experience that in temporarily successful escapers, the fugitives begin to leave a clearly marked trail with a few days.


“They have to get clothing, or food, or do something to get money,” he said. “There has been none of that in this case.”

Wilkinson added, however, that he was certain the three convicts had drowned in the Bay.

“It would take an athlete to make such a swim,” he said. “The only swimming these fellows were accustomed to was in the little old creeks in the swamps of Florida and Louisiana.”

A search of Angel Island by 200 soldiers turned up nothing to indicate that Morris and the Anglins ever reached its shores. There have been no clues from Marin county.

The FBI has poured more than 300 agents into the search since the alarm was flashed on Tuesday morning.

Despite the mounting indications that the three escapers drowned, the FBI is checking every possible lead.

Every friend, relative—or sweetheart—of the fugitives is being investigated in what is the biggest Justice Department manhunt in the West, if not in FBI history.


Even the girl-friends and relatives of the plotters’ known friends in Alcatraz are on the FBI checklist.

All sorts of debris picked up by the Coast Guard patrol boats that have maintained a continuous search of the area is being studied.

Unexplained movements of small vessels in the bay are being checked, on the possibility that confederates may have assisted the escapers to the mainland.

FBI Report

On the morning of June 12, 1962, guards at Alcatraz Prison discovered that inmates Frank Lee Morris, John William Anglin, and Clarence Anglin were missing from their cells. The inmates had fashioned dummy faces in their bunks and escaped the island prison using a makeshift raft constructed of rubber raincoats. Although the FBI conducted an exhaustive investigation, no evidence was located that the three escaped convicts ever reached the shore. Morris, and both Anglins were presumed to be dead.

Below are links to the 1,757 page Federal Bureau of Investigation report under the Freedom of Information Privacy Act

Part 01 Part 02
Part 03 Part 04
Part 05 Part 06
Part 07 Part 08
Part 09 Part 10
Part 11 Part 12
Part 13 Part 14
Part 15 Part 16
Part 17  

YouTube Videos:

From Swamp Gravy - Georgia's Official Folk Life Play

Alcatraz was thought to be impossible to escape from, but two brothers from Georgia helped to prove that belief wrong. Clarence and J. W. Anglin were two Southwest Georgia boys who were sent to the rock for bank robbery with a water gun after escaping from every other jail they were put in. They were born in Miller County (Colquitt) Georgia, spent some of their life in Seminole County Georgia and then moved to Florida. They would go to Michigan every May to pick cherries to help the family out financially and they learned to swim here in the icy waters. They were caring boys who usually robbed places that were closed to insure that no one got injured, and the bank robbery was the only time they had actually used a weapon, and made sure it was a toy gun.

Robert and Rachel Anglin had their hands full with 14 children, seven boys and seven girls, two of which would end up being legends in the unsolved mystery of the escape from Alcatraz. The Anglin family actually lived in Donalsonville and moved to Ruskin, Florida to continue farming. While here Clarence, J.W., and Alfred Anglin began getting in trouble, but it was things like playing hooky from school and stealing watermelons to start with. Just like any adventurous and daring youth of the time. Soon, their mischievousness turned into petty crimes. Clarence was first caught breaking into a service station when he was just 14 years old. According to the book Riddle of the Rock, they were always into trouble, but “they never wanted confrontation; they had an aversion to violence and the possibility of hurting somebody. But once a local business closed up for the night, it was fair game.” By the 1950s the brothers, along with brother Alfred Anglin, were being charged as adults and spending time in penitentiaries. They escaped from every one they were in, would commit another crime and be put back in jail, only to escape again. After being on the run for 5 years, Alfred met up with Clarence who had been in hiding for about a year. They reunited with J.W. who had been back in Ruskin, FL, released from prison for 5 years and leading a straightened out life, but was talked into doing one last run when approached by Clarence and Alfred. So J.W. drove to the Bank of Columbia (Columbia, AL) and Clarence and Alfred proceeded to hold up the bank with a toy pistol. They thought a sentence would be lessened if they used a toy pistol, but this proved not to be the case. Riddle of the Rock states that “their loot consisted of $18,911 in cash and $4,570 in travelers’ checks which was split three ways.” Little did they know that the bank was federally insured and the FBI would find them in Ohio where they were hiding out. The three brothers were charged with armed robbery even thought they had used a toy pistol. A former girlfriend of J.W.’s said, “They weren’t bad guys, they were just dirt poor.”

They were originally sent to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, Clarence was sent to Leavenworth, Kansas as a preventative measure in his escape reputation. J.W. was soon transferred here as well because officials thought Alfred was a bad influence on him. J.W. tried to escape from Leavenworth in a breadbox, but was discovered and as a result sent to Alcatraz. Clarence was sent a few months later after being caught attempting to smuggle a letter to another inmate who was in segregation. The brothers were put in cells next to each other.

After a few years of planning the escape took place on June 12,1962. Frank Morris, Allen West, Clarence and J.W. Anglin were the four inmates who escaped. Allen West was caught when he ran into problems trying to get out of his cell, the others have never been caught.

So did they escape, are they out living free lives? The family says they made it, the authorities’ say they didn’t. There has never been any evidence found to that they perished in the waters, although many sightings and phone calls have been documented that they made it. Authorities say there is no way they were able to swim in those icy waters that surround Alcatraz to freedom. Although a postcard that arrived at Alcatraz on June 16, 1962 which was addressed to Warden Blackwell simply read, “Ha. Ha. We made it. Frank, John, Clarence.” The family has unsuccessfully tried to get their charges dropped so the brothers could live free lives.

So who would have thought that two brothers from Georgia would become lawbreakers to legends and be a part of one of the country’s most extraordinary unsolved mysteries?

A stage production of Gospel of the Rock in Cotton Hall Theater, Colquitt, GA is based on the lives of Clarence and J. W. Anglin and their escape from Alcatraz. It includes stories of their lives as told by their remaining family members. Many hours of their stories have been taped and adapted to the stage by Jules Corriere.

Alcatraz Tour




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  Table of Contents
  Home Page
  About the Ruskin Historical Society
  Contact Us
  Add Your Stories and Comments

 © Ruskin Historical Society

Web publishing by GoThere Corporation