A young Leonard Clifton Hankins
ca. 1920

Leonard Clifton Hankins was born in Caldwell County, Ky. September 2, 1896. A son of Thomas Morgan Hankins and Elnora Calvert Hankins. He along with a brother Luther enlisted to fight in World War I. His father Tom was very proud of his two sons Leonard and Luther for taking part in the defense of the country and had a photo made of him sitting on
a flag drape with Leonard on the left and Luther on the right dressed in their uniforms.

After fulfilling his wartime duties, the exact date is unknown he married Nola French, but being a farm laborer did not suite Leonard for long. He longed for the excitement of "Big City" life. He quickly learned to deal cards, and all of the tricks of a professional gambler.
He left Nola and his Kentucky home to make his fortune with a deck of cards.

In St. Paul, Minnesotia, he had rented a room at a local rooming house and making the rounds of the local gambling hotspots. He had went into a barbershop for a shave and hair cut, and as he sat there he heard the sounds of sirens from police cars seeming to come from everywhere. He and the barber were wondering what could be happening to cause so much excitement.

In 1932 Leonard Hankins was arrested, tried and convicted for a bank robbery and murdering two policemen and a passerby in Minneapolis, Minn. It was later proved that the "Ma" Barker-Karpis gang actually committed the crimes. Three years later the FBI arrested Jess Doyle, who confessed to the crimes for which Leonard Hankins had been imprisoned. The FBI advised the Minneapolis police of Hankins innocence, but the local authorities refused to release him because the FBI would not give them its file on Doyle. Even though the FBI had pronounced him guiltless, Hankins spent another 15 years in prison before being pardoned in 1951, with an unconditional commutation of Leonard's sentence in 1954.

To see the story about the bank robbery and murder of the Policemen Leo R. Groski and Ira L. Evans
Lenoard's case is number 5 on a list of 10 of the most Nortorious Cases of Terrible Injustice

At the age of 36 in 1932 Leonard Hankins was sentenced to life in prison and led through the gates of Stillwater Minnesota State Prison as he walked through the gates he was told, "Take a good look at the outside world. It's the last time you're ever gonna see it", and there he remained untill 1952 when he was finally completely exonerated of the bank robbery and murders.
For nineteen years his only sister Della Hankins Lowery had stood by him and every dime she could manage went to hire lawyers to probe deeper into the case. Through the years it was a constant drain and cost her more than $30,000.00 dollars.

In Oct. 1955 Leonard married Edith (Carslile) Tucker of Evansville, In. and they bought a home which looked like a small castle, it was filled with antiques, and the property included the Roadside Motel and Gift Shop, which they operated together.
Leonard and Edith were very happy in their home and running the motel and gift shop for some time but eventually the years spent behind bars had caused him so many problems that it became impossible for them to remain together and they divorced.

In 1956 a book was published Nineteen Years Not Guilty and tells of the years of abuse while inprisoned and the constant and long fight to gain his release. In 2004 the book was reprinted with money from the sales of this book going to the maintenance of the Fairview Cemetery in northern Caldwell Co., Ky. where Leonard is buried in the family plot. The book begins with his arrest, tells of the trial where he was railroaded into what was at that time a very abusive prison system and the long struggle for freedom and finally his release. The book will make some weep with compassion and others will thank God that this did not happen to them, as he relates the physical pain of having his hands strapped to his sides for fifty-nine days in solitary confinement, or the mental agony being a sane inmate of a hospital for the criminally insane.
Although it is a fact that things like this are still happening everyday as we hear of yet another person being released when new evidence has been found to prove their innocence.

For more information on this book, please contact Peggy Gilkey

Leonard Clifton Hankins died April 20, 1960 at the home of his sister Della Hankins Lowery and was pronounced dead at the Caldwell County Hospital at Princeton, Ky.

Back to Caldwell Co., Ky. Cemeteries