Meet Richard Gray Gallogly, the rich and arrogant scion of one of Atlanta’s most prosperous early families. His grandfather was successful Atlanta businessman and owner of the Journal Constitution, James Richard Gray Sr. His father was mortgage broker Col. James Gallogly, a West Point graduate decorated by the French for bravery in World War I. Unlike his father and grandfather, who both produced local headlines for business matters and acts of bravery, Richard Gallogly produced sensational newspaper headlines across the country in October of 1928 for two “thrill killings” and seven armed robberies in the Atlanta area. Gallogly’s story of moneyed indulgence and violent escapades not only relates to Atlanta history but illustrates the fascinating Jazz Age we currently see depicted in television shows and movies such as Boardwalk Empire and The Great Gatsby. Dubbed “Dapper Dick” by the press, Richard Gallogly was a spoiled youth, an Oglethorpe University student, an escaped convict, a criminal celebrity and a convicted murderer.
The Gallogly and Harsh case [more about George Harsh below] was compared to “Leopold and Loeb” the pair of rich and coddled University of Chicago students who murdered 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 because they were bored [Read about Leopold and Loeb here]. Gallogly’s story starts in Atlanta in 1928, when he was an 18-year-old at Oglethorpe University and was introduced to a gang of young men known for having fun at the expense of others. Led by a 21-year-old from Milwaukee named George Rutherford Harsh Jr., the notorious group aggressively sped around Atlanta to speakeasies and roadhouses, pulled fire alarms on the Oglethorpe campus, jumped in the Chattahoochee drunk and generally made a ruckus wherever their cars took them.
Like Gallogly, George Harsh also had unlimited money, inheriting what would be millions in today’s dollars from his father who passed away in 1921. By the time he arrived at Oglethorpe, Harsh Jr. was a revolting and horrible alcoholic who caused nothing but trouble. And when Harsh returned to Oglethorpe for the fall term in 1928, he brought a Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber pistol he had purchased at some point during the hot summer.
Armed with a new toy, the affluent Oglethorpe crew used the streetlights on Peachtree Street along with the clock in Lupton Hall’s clock tower for drunken target practice. Eventually a group of at least four young men, including Gallogly and Harsh, began to tire of just shooting at stationary targets. In early October they formed a pact and began a series of armed robberies of gas stations, drug stores and grocery stores. It provided the thrill and excitement they craved, but provided violent results for others.
Two of the boys would sit in the car as lookouts while the other two would storm into the business, one armed with Harsh’s pistol. They would tie up the store clerk and sometimes stick around dressed as employees so they could obtain more cash from customers. They were generally polite, unless they were shooting at people, and were always dressed in the finest clothes. It’s unclear who really participated in each crime beyond Harsh and Gallogly in the final armed robbery, which I will explain below. Over the course of October in 1928 the group attempted seven holdups. Two of them ended in tragedy after shootouts.
The first tragedy occurred during their second holdup. Even though they were never prosecuted for this crime, the story goes that Harsh and Gallogly entered a grocery store brandishing the pistol in early October. An armed manager pulled his gun and accidentally shot and killed a fellow employee, store clerk E.H. Meeks. Harsh and Gallogly fled the scene. Later Harsh confessed it was himself and Gallogly, but they were never prosecuted for this crime, and no other suspects, such as the getaway driver or lookout, was ever identified. Undeterred by this violent episode, the young men continued their crime spree through October 1928, attending Oglethorpe football games, and having a good time.
Tragedy struck again on October 20th, 1928 when Harsh and Gallogly [we can only assume it was Gallogly, which I will explain later] again entered a drug store on Boulevard and 10th Street with Harsh brandishing his pistol for their final and seventh holdup. Unbeknownst to the robbers, store owner Willard Smith was also armed. Pulling his pistol, Smith shot Harsh in the hip. Wounded, Harsh returned fire, killing Smith. Again, the pair fled into the Atlanta night, back to Gallogly’s apartment near Oglethorpe’s campus.
Harsh’s injury produced some blood and a slight limp, but he explained the injury as one obtained while falling over drunk. If it were not for a maid doing her job, the crime spree could have continued. For when they returned from this last bloody shootout, the boys left Harsh’s bloodied pants in Gallogly’s apartment. Gallogly’s maid noticed the pants and the bloodstains and took them to a dry cleaner, who alerted police when they found the bullet hole.
When police caught up to Harsh he was on his way to a football game. When police questioned Harsh about his pants, they were surprised when he quickly confessed to seven armed robberies and murdering Smith, which all occurred “for the fun of it”. In his confession he implicated only Gallogly. [It’s important to remember the “pact” these boys made in the beginning.] While Gallogly later arrived for questioning with a group of well-paid lawyers, Harsh’s lawyers were delayed long enough for a full confession from him, sealing his fate in trial. Harsh was quickly convicted for the murder of Smith and sentenced to life in prison.
Faced with an accomplice’s confession and the incredible amount of physical evidence against him [the blood-stained pants and murder weapon], Gallogly arrogantly fought the charges, hiring the best attorneys in the state of Georgia. Two juries were deadlocked, but during the third trial Gallogly was convinced to plead guilty, and in 1930 he was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Smith.
Harsh and Gallogly never implicated the others in the gang, publicly or in the courts, staying loyal to the “pact” they made with their fellow students. In March of 1929 Jack Mahoney, a fellow Oglethorpe student and tailor’s son was arrested and brought in for questioning in connection to the robberies. But Mahoney was never charged. Other than Mahoney the rest of the Oglethorpe gang has been able to fade anonymously into Atlanta history.
But Harsh and Gallogly never faded into Atlanta history. In fact, they would both continue to fascinate the public and make waves through the American press. For Gallogly, he returned to the spotlight in 1939. See Gallogly had a rough time in prison, harassed by inmates for being a pampered rich boy. In 1932 while in Tattnall Prison “Dapper Dick” tried to commit suicide. And in October of 1939 he had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.
When he was cleared by the doctors to return to prison Dick Gallogly sprung a simple escape plan. Armed with a fake gun, he took over the green Studebaker sedan transporting him, his mother and his new wife back to Tattnall Prison. After leaving the two guards and his own mother on the side of the road, Gallogly fled with his new wife, who he had just married while in prison. The Studebaker was the personal car of Georgia Prison Inspector Royal K. Mann, and the whole episode embarrassed many in the Georgia prison system.
A manhunt ensued, and the couple’s names and faces were printed across the nation in newspapers. The focus of the manhunt was the Georgia and South Carolina state lines, but Gallogly fled to Texas, were he eluded capture until he walked into a police station seeking Texas justice. He fought extradition back to Georgia, but by March 25th, 1940 the 30-year-old Gallogly was back in our state’s prison system. He didn’t last long in prison, however.
For several years the affluent families of these two men had been putting pressure on state officials, and towards the end of the 1930’s their efforts were focused on gaining full pardons from the governor of Georgia. While the first two governors to look at the Gallogly and Harsh case passed on pardons, former Georgia Governor E.D. Rivers pardoned both men on January 13th, 1941. George Harsh and Dick Gallogly were now free men.
Besides a charge for drunk driving in 1943, Gallogly seemed to lead a relatively quiet life until his death on June 22nd, 2002. Harsh, however, would make further marks on history, but this time while serving in World War II.
See Harsh, unlike Gallogly, had totally embraced prison life. He reportedly murdered a fellow inmate during his stint [he was never charged] and when he was released Harsh was approached by an Atlanta crime organization to work as some sort of enforcer. Harsh had a reputation as a bruiser. After considering the offer, Harsh decided his options in Atlanta were limited to a thug lifestyle. He fled to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Harsh flew combat missions over enemy lines during World War II, and his plane was shot down during a run over Germany in 1943. Imprisoned in the Stalag Luft III prison camp, Harsh participated in one of the most notable historical events of World War II. Dozens of Allied prisoners, including Harsh, worked day and night on several secret tunnels through the dirt. Harsh was transferred before the escape, but eventually 76 prisoners of war escaped their tunnels, diverting serious Nazi war resources to escaped prisoner searches. It was later dubbed “The Great Escape” [Read more about Stalag Luft III and “The Great Escape” here] and the story produced a popular book along with a movie starring Steve McQueen. Harsh later recounted his life and particularly his time in Stalag Luft III in a book, but he left out his escapades with the Oglethorpe gang, oddly starting the book with him attached to a Georgia chain gang. George Harsh died on January 25th, 1980.
Stories similar to Richard “Dapper Dick” Gallogly and George Harsh are repeated throughout American generations; they were not the first or last out-of-control youths in Atlanta history. Financially empowered yet emotionally empty youngsters, bored with wealth and violently mixing with inner city music, dangerously fast automobiles and flowing illegal liquor. So while you’re watching Boardwalk Empire or The Great Gatsby, remember some of Atlanta’s youth perilously participated in this roaring, jazzy, opulent and rapacious time period in American history.