'Little Mel' Purvis, the son of a wealthy southern tobacco farmer, was born in 1903 and was the diminutive head of the Chicago office of the FBI, and is best known as the federal agent responsible for bringing several notorious criminals to justice, including John Dillinger and 'Pretty Boy' Floyd.
Beginning in 1933, John Dillinger and his gang went on a violent spree of robberies throughout the states of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, killing numerous innocents. Dillinger was deemed 'Public Enemy No. 1' and a national manhunt was launched. Purvis followed a bad tip and ordered a raid on a hunting lodge in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Dillinger was in fact nowhere near and Purvis’ agents mistakenly killed several innocent people in the ensuing confusion. Eventually, Purvis secured contact with one of Dillinger’s friends, Anna Sage, later to become known in the press as 'The woman in red'. Sage, originally from Romania, was forced to co-operate with the FBI in order to avoid deportation. Using Anna Sage as bait, Purvis set a trap at the Biograph movie theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934. When Dillinger emerged from the cinema, he was shot dead by Purvis’ agents. Dillinger’s death made Purvis an overnight hero, despite his not firing a single shot. Purvis was also responsible for bringing about the conviction of Kansas City gangster Adam Richetti, and he also spearheaded the raid that led to the capture of Vern Sankley. Sankley, another 'Public Enemy No. 1', faced charges of abduction, but killed himself before he could be brought to trial. During World War II Purvis served as a Colonel, and after the war he helmed several congressional committees. In February 29, 1960, at his home in South Carolina, he took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.