by Ryan Browne
When many people think of the biggest criminal in US history, many names may come to mind. Some might think of David Berkowitz, known as the Son of Sam, who terrorized New York City during 1976-1977 in a series of random shootings. Others may think of John Dillinger, the famous bank robber during the Great Depression whose crimes were one of the catalysts for the formation of the FBI. Of course we can’t forget about Jesse James, who with the help of his gang terrorized the frontier of the 1800s by robbing stagecoaches, trains and banks.
But, what about the biggest criminal in US history, physically? Well, some of the physically largest people in the country are athletes. Nate Newton was a 6’ 3”, 335 pound offensive lineman with the early 1990s Dallas Cowboys. He was arrested for drug possession twice when he was found with 213 and 175 pounds of marijuana in his vehicle and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for drug trafficking. Terry “Tank” Johnson was a 6’3”, 315 pound defensive tackle who played for the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. “Tank” was arrested on multiple occasions for gun charges, including while he was already on probation for a weapons charge. Tank eventually served four months in Cook County jail for the probation violation and the second weapons charge.
However, the largest criminal in US history wasn’t a person at all. It was an elephant.
In 1916, Sparks World Famous Shows was going to be part of the first county fair in Kingsport, Tennessee. The star of their show was Mary, an Asian elephant. On September 12 of that year, while being led to get water in between shows, Red Eldridge roughly prodded Mary with a bull hook when Mary stopped walking. In response, Mary picked Eldridge up by her trunk and threw him against a drink stand and then stomped him with her foot.
Mary was arrested and taken to the county jail where she was chained to a stake in the ground. To calm public fears and outrage and out of a concern for public safety, Mary’s owner decided that she needed to be publicly put to death. So on the morning of September 13, Mary was taken by train to Erwin, Tennessee where she was hanged in front of an onlooking public.
You can read more about the story of Mary here.