As It Was: Sophisticated Bank Robber Attracts Public’s Attention

Oct 23, 2017

Described as one of the most daring and spectacular highwaymen in the Pacific Northwest, John Austin Hooper was certainly prolific.

 

Paroled from California’s Folsom Prison in 1914, Hooper headed north, robbing businesses and trains. In Southern Oregon, he threw ammonia in a teller’s eyes while robbing a Rogue River bank.  In Grants Pass, Hooper burglarized two banks, a telephone exchange and robbed people at the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot.  Police arrested him in The Dalles a few months later, turning him over to Josephine County Sheriff William Smith.  Hooper was described as a handsome, stylish 34-year-old with the diction of a college professor.  In fact, Hooper had socially prominent parents and graduated from a California college. 

Hooper quickly escaped from the Grants Pass jail, making his way East and gaining notoriety for robbing trains along the way.  Caught in Joplin, he escaped the Missouri State Prison and headed south.  Meanwhile, he wrote letters taunting officers who had arrested him.  In one, he called Sheriff Smith of Grants Pass “a good sport.” 

Hooper was reportedly shot to death in Mississippi, but previous rumors of his demise had been proven wrong.
 

Sources:Rogue River Bank Robber Suspect Real Jesse James with Long Record of Crimes." Medford Mail Tribune, 22 July 1915, p. 6. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn97071090/1915-07-22/ed-1/seq-6/#sort=relevance&index=11&rows=20&words=Austin+Hooper+John&searchType=basic&sequence=0&proxtext=John+Austin+Hooper&page=2. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017;  Dashing Robber is College Graduate." Morning Oregonian, 22 July 1915 [Portland OR], p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, https://oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn83025138/1915-07-22/ed-1/seq-1/#sort=relevance&index=7&rows=20&words=Austin+Hooper+John&searchType=basic&sequence=0&proxtext=John+Austin+Hooper&page=3. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017.