William Francis "Willie" Sutton, Jr. (June 30, 1901 – November 2, 1980) was a prolific American bank robber. During his forty-year criminal career he stole an estimated $2 million, and eventually spent more than half of his adult life in prison and escaped three times. For his talent at executing robberies in disguises, he gained two nicknames, "Willie the Actor" and "Slick Willie." Sutton is also known as the namesake of Sutton's law, though he denied originating it.
Sutton was born into an Irish-American family in a Polish neighborhood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was the fourth of five children, and did not go beyond the 8th grade of school.
He turned to crime at an early age, though throughout his professional criminal career, he did not kill anyone. Described by Mafioso Donald Frankos as "a little bright-eyed guy, just 5'7" and always talking, chain-smoking ... cigarettes with Bull Durham tobacco." Frankos stated also that Sutton "dispensed mounds of legal advice" to any convict willing to listen. Inmates considered Sutton a "wise old head" in the prison population. When incarcerated at "The Tombs" (Manhattan House of Detention) he did not have to worry about assault because Mafia friends looked after him. In conversation with Donald Frankos he would sadly reminisce about the violent and turbulent days in the 1920s and 1930s while he was most active in robbing banks and would always tell fellow convicts that in his opinion, during the days of Al Capone and Charles Lucanio, better known as Lucky Luciano, the criminal underworld was the bloodiest. Gangsters from the time period, and many incarcerated organized crime mafia family leaders and made Mafiosi, loved having Sutton around for companionship. He was always a gentleman, witty and non-violent. Frankos declared that Sutton made legendary bank thieves Jesse James and John Dillinger look like amateurs...
Quotes by Willie Sutton
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