BOLEY, Okla. (AP) — A building in central Oklahoma connected to one of the most infamous bank robbers of the 20th century could soon be restored, the founder of a historical preservation nonprofit said.
In November 1932, three members of Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s gang tried but failed to rob the Farmers and Merchants Bank in the all-black town of Boley, the largest black town in the state, according to Andre Head, CEO of Coltrane Group. Two gang members were killed and the third was sentenced to prison.
“Pretty Boy Floyd told them: ‘Do not rob that bank, there’s no money there and plus, those people have guns. You don’t want to do that,'” Head said.
Head said the National Park Service has provided a $24,000 grant for the Boley bank’s renovation and repairs, The Oklahoman reported.
“We wanted to preserve that bank and we’re also looking at doing a yearly re-enactment of the bank robbery. We’re working on that now and we’re hoping that this bank will be open in 2020,” Head said.
Head estimates it will cost a total of around $200,000 to complete the overhaul.
Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said the bank building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, one of the first buildings to get the distinction in Oklahoma, but that not conservation has been done until now.
Henrietta Hicks, chairman of the Boley Chamber of Commerce, said the bank’s importance extends beyond the attempted robbery and that it was vital to the story of Boley. Hicks said D.J. Turner, the bank’s president, had the vision to develop and operate a bank in one of the largest all-black communities in the country. Educator, author and civil rights trailblazer Booker T. Washington once defined the town as the most “enterprising and in many ways the most interesting of the Negro towns in the United States.”
Blackburn said the bank was the most significant building in all of Oklahoma’s all-black towns. She said its renovation will help share the stories and the “rich culture of African Americans in Oklahoma.”
“We now have a way to move forward with its preservation, with programming, and allow that to help revitalize the community of Boley,” Blackburn said.