Who was Baby Face Nelson and what was his real name?

BABY Face Nelson took his place as one of the most ruthless gangsters of the 20th century when his life ended in a hail of bullets at just 25 years old.

The cold-blooded killer and robbery mastermind became the FBI’s “Public Enemy #1” in just a few short years as his heists, thefts, and kills were followed across America.

Baby Face Nelson killed three FBI agents, became one of America's most notorious outlaws, and died before the age of 26


Baby Face Nelson killed three FBI agents, became one of America’s most notorious outlaws, and died before the age of 26Photo credit: Wikipedia

Who Was Baby Face Nelson?

Baby Face Nelson, real name Lester J. Gillis, was born on December 6, 1908 in Chicago.

He went down in history as one of the greatest bank robberies and ruthless killers, particularly of FBI agents.

According to the FBI: “Despite his boyish looks (hence the nickname), Nelson was a callous killer with a violent temper.”

What crimes did he commit?

His criminal life began early and vigorously. At 13, Nelson joined a youth gang and played at stealing tires and cars before turning to bootlegging and armed robbery.

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His youthful crimes kept him going to boys’ hostels, and in 1920 he raided the home of a wealthy magazine owner and stole jewelry worth $3 million today.

After a few more run-ins with the law, he ended up behind bars a number of times before escaping in 1932.

The increasingly hardened criminal hit the road and joined forces with other notorious outlaws and gangsters, including John Paul Chase, Homer Van Meter and John Dillinger.

However, according to the FBI, “Baby Face Nelson was far too reckless and ruthless even for these hardened gangsters.”

In 1934, he and his team of outlaws began a series of deadly heists across the United States.

His exploits earned him the moniker Baby Face for his boyish looks and small size, but he was considered the most murderous of them all.

“Where outlaws like Pretty Boy Floyd and the Barkers killed to protect themselves when cornered, Nelson went out of his way to murder—he loved it,” writes historian Jay Robert Nash in his book Bloodletters and Badmen.

In April 1934, the FBI finally located the outlaws in Wisconsin and in a bloody but failed attempt to capture them, two were killed and the entire gang escaped.

America was recorded and high honors were offered for their whereabouts.

The robberies continued and more police officers were killed before Dillinger was shot dead in July 1934.

Dillinger’s death came just two months after the murders of other notorious criminals Bonnie and Clydebut the FBI was still focused on Baby Face.

The day after Dillinger’s death and FBI director J Edgar Hoover Nelson declared him “Public Enemy No. 1”.

When did Baby Face Nelson die?

On November 27, 1934, two FBI agents discovered Nelson and Chase in a stolen car in Illinois.

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An armed chase ensued down a freeway, which resulted in a wild shootout that left both agents dead and Nelson fighting for his life.

He died later in the day from his injuries.


PaulLeBlanc is a Dailynationtoday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. PaulLeBlanc joined Dailynationtoday in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: paulleblanc@dailynationtoday.com.

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