On this day, Jan. 16, in 1935, Kate "Ma" Barker is gunned down in a lengthy shootout in Florida. Barker, the mother of several criminals, was portrayed as the mastermind of the Barker gang when gangsters like John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde captured the country's imagination.

The Barker gang terrorized the Midwest for nearly 20 years, and were named Public Enemy No. 1.

FBI agents tracked Ma and her favorite son, Fred, to a cottage on Lake Weir in central Florida. With Ma manning a machine gun, the mother-and-son duo held off the feds for four hours, but both eventually were shot and killed.

Although Ma Barker was portrayed as the matriarchal leader, there is little evidence that she did anything more than enjoy the spoils of her sons' crimes.

Scott McCabe