Fred Burke was born May 29, 1893, in Mapleton, Kansas, as Thomas Camp. Burke grew up in Kansas and was often described as an above-average student who regularly attended Sunday school. Burke began his criminal activities with a land fraud scheme, and in order to escape prosecution fled to Kansas City, Missouri. Burke eventually made his way to St. Louis, Missouri, where he became a part of a gang known as Egan’s Rats. In 1917 Burke joined the army to escape forgery charges. Upon his return he spent a year in jail in Michigan for land fraud and another year in Missouri for other charges. Although Burke rejoined Egan’s Rats, the leaders were arrested and Burke went to Michigan to join another gang. Burke soon moved to Chicago and became a member of Al Capone’s gang. In 1929 Burke was identified as a member of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, where Burke and his gang members killed seven men from an opposing gang.
After the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Burke continued his illegal activities. In 1929 Burke was in a traffic accident and killed the police officer on the scene. Burke fled to Missouri where he married in 1930. He was finally found and arrested March 26, 1931. Burke was given a life sentence at the Michigan State Prison where he died July 10, 1940, of a heart attack.
Entry: Burke, Fred
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: May 2012
Date Modified: July 2016
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.