Joseph Eddy (Joe) Broadway (1939–2002)
Joe Broadway tried four times in the 1960s to rob a tiny branch bank in his hometown of Bauxite (Saline County) and succeeded twice, but he was caught the third time with an accomplice while they were hiding in some bushes, and both men spent several years in prison. His fourth robbery, while he was on a Christmas furlough from prison in 1969, was a quick disaster: After a shootout in the bank lobby with employees, Broadway fled and was captured six months later in St. Louis, Missouri. The colorful newspaper accounts of the robberies, the bonhomie between Broadway and the employees whom he held up at gunpoint, and his freewheeling accounts of how he squandered the money made Broadway something of a folk hero, like another small-town bandit of the same era, Joe Hilderbrand.
Joseph Eddy Broadway was born on September 14, 1939, in Saline County to William Broadway and Fanny May Stroup Broadway. He went to school at Bauxite, married Edna Pearl Sides of Bauxite in 1961, and began working for the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), established in Bauxite due to nearby deposits of bauxite ore.
As he would later recall for the sheriff and prosecutor, Broadway’s first attempt to rob the bank was on December 8, 1964. He got some burglar’s tools and tried to get into the vault, a concrete-block addition to the frame bank building. He could not crack the vault, he said, but on the way out of the bank he found a quarter on the floor and kept it. He then left Bauxite and went to Texas. He returned from Dallas on April 16, 1965, and slept that night next to the nearby Saline River. The next morning, Saturday, April 17, he stole a green 1952 Chevrolet from a parking lot at Benton (Saline County) and robbed the bank just as it was opening its doors. The two bank employees—the branch manager and a bookkeeper—got the car’s license plate number. The Arkansas Gazette described the scene on its front page the next day. The robber was tall, his face covered with stubble and “his long, sandy hair falling over his forehead.” The manager said the robber’s hands shook furiously. He pointed a gun at the manager and held out a sack. Broadway was so nervous that he suddenly stopped the manager, who was stuffing bills and change into the sack. It came to $8,324, the manager calculated afterward.
Broadway drove to Hot Springs (Garland County), abandoned the stolen car, and caught an airplane to California, where he bought a car and squandered all the money in less than a month. He recounted his splurges in some detail to the sheriff and prosecutor later. Back in Dallas and broke again, he recruited a new friend, twenty-five-year-old Carl Raymond Walters of Decatur, Illinois, to help him rob the Bauxite bank again. They did it the morning of May 17, exactly a month after his successful robbery, encountering the same manager and bookkeeper just after they had unlocked the door to the bank. This time, they took $6,036.
The sheriff sent for bloodhounds from Cummins Prison Farm, and the pair was arrested five hours later hiding in a patch of honeysuckle bushes north of Sardis (Saline County), near the Pulaski County line. A woman saw Broadway and Walters turn their stolen car around in her yard, leap out, and run into the thicket. A state trooper captured them without resistance. They admitted everything in profuse detail and pleaded guilty in court the next day. Asked why he kept robbing the little branch, Broadway said, “I guess it was just easy.”
Broadway was convicted of robbing the bank twice and stealing two cars. He was given two consecutive ten-year terms, making him eligible for parole in thirteen years. Walters got a ten-year sentence. Broadway briefly escaped from Cummins in 1967. His getaway from the bloodhounds and guards made the newspapers again for a few days.
While he was home from Cummins on a Christmas furlough in 1969, Broadway again entered the bank with a pistol and a sack and demanded that his sack be filled. The bank had not been alerted that he was on furlough. A guard saw Broadway’s pistol, snatched a .30-caliber rifle, and began firing at Broadway. The teller fell to the floor as the guard started firing all over the room, blowing out windows and mangling a teller’s cage. The manager pulled from a drawer what was described as “a long-barreled Wyatt Earp-style pistol” and directed a fusillade at Broadway. Every bullet from both weapons missed, and Broadway ran out the door and into the woods.
After his capture in St. Louis and upon his appearance in court months later, Broadway was asked by the judge, “What’s your hang-up on the Bauxite bank?”
“I don’t know, Judge,” he replied.
His defense lawyer made this plea on his behalf: “We are living in an unsettled world, maybe a dying world, maybe a decadent civilization. It wouldn’t do any harm for us to show some compassion for this man, whatever he has done.”
Broadway spent ten more years in prison and moved to Dallas. He died on April 8, 2002, in Benton. He is buried in Bauxite Cemetery.
For additional information:
“Bank Robbers Plead Guilty, Get Sentences.” Arkansas Gazette, May 19, 1965, p. 1B.
“Bauxite Bank Hit by Nervous Robber Who Takes $8,234.” Arkansas Gazette, April 18, 1965, pp. 1A, 2A.
“Bauxite Bank Robbed Second Time; Two Give Up in Honeysuckle Patch.” Arkansas Gazette, May 18, 1965, pp. 1A, 4A.
Lancaster, Bob. “Outlaws Embellish History of Arkansas from Earliest Days.” Arkansas Gazette, August 4, 1991, pp. 1A, 14A.
Moore, Maurice. “Persistent Bandit Remains at Large.” Arkansas Democrat, May 20, 1969, pp. 1A, 2A.
Little Rock, Arkansas
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