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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Appointed in 1931 as SAC, WFO, John M. Keith is shown in released FBI documents as playing a pivotal role in the early firearms selection and organized training for Special Agents beginning in 1933. A member of JEH’s Executive Committee, he and the legendary Frank Baughman took on the task after the infamous Kansas City Massacre. 1938 newspapers referred to Keith as the “first ‘dean’ of the Department of Justice school for special agents.”

Originally a native of Dublin, Texas and having come from Texas law enforcement, in 1936, after eighteen years with the Bureau, Keith left to become an investigator for a radio firm in Philadelphia. In addition to his role in FBI firearms and training, Keith (among other cases) was involved in the Lindbergh kidnap ransom hoax, arresting Gaston Means and Norman Whitaker.

Keith has been virtually forgotten about yet Baughman’s name periodically rings on with Smith and Wesson collectors, and his invention of the “Baughman site” for .357 magnums. ( Baughman is a “regular” in old 1930’s FBI firearms photos, usually identified by his leather coat, mustache and “trooper hat.” He and Director Hoover (JEH) attended college together and JEH attended his first wedding. )

In November, 1938, Keith was found by his wife in the bedroom of their Cheltenham, PA. home, after she heard a muffled gun shot from that location. His handgun on the floor next to him, he had shot himself through the head and suicide was certified by the Coroner. Police at the time revealed Keith suffered a severe nervous breakdown in 1937.

Keith was survived by his wife and daughter and was buried in Columbia Gardens cemetery, Arlington, Va.

Author Bryan Burrough referred to Keith in his book, "Public Enemies" as having "matching .45 Colt revolvers" while assigned to Washington. I'm trying to verify the existence of these handguns if anyone knows and if at some museum. (If they are privately owned, that's fine, no need to mention names). I'm also attempting to determine which Texas local Department Keith may have come from if anyone knows. I suspect it possibly may have been Ft. Worth.

Thanks in advance
Larry Wack
FBI - Ret.

"For The Honor Of Their Fathers"
The FBI & Men Of The 1930s
historicalgmen.squarespace.com


 

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You probably already have this info, but a quick search I found these obits on him. One from the The Athens Messenger Athens Ohio Nov. 21, 1938. 2nd from El Paso Hearld Post El Paso Tx Nov 21, 1938 & the last The Corpus Christi Times Nov 21, 1938.

So far I have only found his employment with the FBI & Philco Radio.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Many thanks for those; I did have similar small articles on his death. There really hasn't been much mention of Keith by authors and others of Bureau lore. I'm not really sure of the existence of Keith's matching .45s since I don't know author Burrough's source of his info, although his research for his book was very good. I do have Keith's Ancestry data revealing family members etc. and his death certificate and more.

His affiliation with Texas law enforcement prior to Bureau service seems to be periodically circling around the horn with various writers and it's possible each is copying the other's info, however vague it might be. By the time of his leaving the FBI in 1936, he already had 18 years of service and no doubt was in the Bureau of Investigation prior to Director Hoover taking over in 1924.

I was kinda of hoping that these supposed "matching Colt .45s" and Keith's name might jump out at someone on here. I have filed a Freedom of Info Request for his personnel file, however processing has been extremely slow down there and it's already a year old. I have no idea when it will be completed; maybe some answers will be in there if no one here responds. I'll be more than happy to share whatever I find that's relevant if and when processing ever gets completed.

thanks much
larry wack
 

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If I run across anything I will let you know, I did see the book that mentions him having the pair of 45's in Washington. This is a photo of him from his senior year book in 1913 in Dublin, Tx. He was the class president & valedictorian .
 

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Looking at city directories I find him as a SA in Dallas in 1920 & then SAC in Phoenix in 1925. Also found where in 1936 he went to Paris on a case involving stolen bonds & found the ship he returned on. So far no mention of his firearms, wish I could find the magic article.
 
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