Note: This is an encore post from 2006.
In a jailhouse interview before he was taken to San Quentin, James G. Fleenor, the barefoot burglar, set the record straight on his escapes, his relationship with a white woman and how he began a life of crime.
It had been rumored that Fleenor returned to Los Angeles after escaping from a San Francisco jail because of his relationship with Mrs. B.J. Byres of 1669 Tennessee St. He insisted that he hopped the first freight train leaving the yard and discovered later that it was going to Los Angeles.
Fleenor, who used a real estate business as a front for his burglaries, said that she was one of only three customers who continued paying on her property after he was sent to jail. “She came to the jail and asked where the payments were to be made,” he said. When asked what became of the money, he replied: “The lawyers got it and crowded me for more.”
Then he began the story of his life. Born in a free state to a father who was a freed slave, Fleenor said he was raised in a town that was predominately white. “There were only three families of colored people and we were all thought everything of by the white people. My mother was the old mammy of the whole neighborhood,” he said.
“I was ambitious. I wanted to paint pictures or do something of that sort. But I learned the trade of cabinetmaking. I learned it well, too.
“Then I decided I would go out in the world. I thought I would get the same treatment I had in the town where I was born. I didn’t know any better,” he said.
“In place after place I offered to do a day’s work for nothing just to show what I could do. People seemed to like me. They wanted to give me work—gardening or shoveling coal or something like that. But, well, how would a lawyer feel if someone offered him a job taking care of chickens?
“Many places I was told they’d like to put me to work but that if they did all their other workers would walk out of the shop. I am not saying anything against the unions but that was how it was. That was all. It was simply the way fate was working with me.”
Sheriff Hammel and Jailer Aguirre were to escort Fleenor to San Quentin, but refused to say when they would leave.
“When I have landed Fleenor in San Quentin and have my receipt for him, then I will telegraph to Los Angeles that it is done,” Hammel said.
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The engineer of a Southern Pacific freight derails his train because a naked lunatic throws himself on the tracks. A Bible from a mission at 145 N. Main St. found with his clothes gives his name as C.H. Clenin of Australia… A gray colt commits suicide in Echo Park lake rather than pull a cart. “There will be no inquest, for they do not hold inquests over colts, but out on Bellevue road, they will remember for many a day the little gray colt to which death was preferable to slavery,” The Times says… W.W. Garvin stabs fellow real estate dealer George Cunningham over a bad debt at the entrance to the Grant Building at 4th Street and Broadway.
The City Council approves a law limiting wholesale liquor stores to the saloon district. Dealers have been given 11 months to move their businesses inside the district. Apparently the saloon zone was so well-known that The Times didn’t need to report the boundaries; the southern border was the north side of 9th Street. The western boundary was extended in 1907 to the west side of the 3rd Street tunnel. The others are unclear.