Thursday, March 21, 1963: Alcatraz closes

From United Press International:

     Only the ghosts of "Scarface Al" Capone, George "Machinegun" Kelly and others of America's most notorious gangsters inhabited the lofty cell blocks of Alcatraz Prison Friday.
     The last 27 of the island prison's 260-inmate population were removed Thursday and transferred to other institutions prepatory to closing down "The Rock" by June 30.
     Those 27 left the easy way -- by boat. During its 29 years as the home of the federal government's most hardened convicts, 7 inmates were shot and killed, 6 drowned or were believed to have drowned, and 26 were seized in 14 escape attempts.
     A blond, thin-faced gun smuggler from Anchorage, Alaska, named Frank C. Weatherman had the distinction of being the last inmate off Alcatraz. A newsman asked him how he felt about it.
     "Good. Good for me, good for everyone. Alcatraz never was no good," the 29-year-old convict replied.
     A few minutes after Weatherman and the others departed, guard Gordon Gronzo clumped down the steps of the 75-foot-high gun tower No. 1. He carried a rifle and wore another cartridge belt slung over his shoulder. No longer was there any need for him to watch for trouble on Alcatraz.
     Alcatraz was opened in 1934 to house incorrigibles during the wave of gangland violence that followed the end of Prohibition.
     The decision to abandon the 29-year-old prison in San Francisco Bay area was prompted by its deterioration from age and salt air. Federal officials said it would cost $5 million to renovate it.
     ... The 12-acre island will be turned over to the General Services Administration as surplus property June 30. California congressmen currently are sponsoring legislation to create a commission that would decide what to do with what has long been one of San Francisco's top tourist sights.
* " 'Rock' Closes" (newsreel, from criticalpast.com): @
* alcatrazhistory.com: @
* Alcatraz Island entry from National Park Service: @
* Alcatraz entry from Federal Bureau of Prisons: @
* Earlier post on escape (June 1962): @ 

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