Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Last Surviving Member of the Shelton Gang Passes

In 2013 Jimmy Zuber holds one of the rifles his
uncle Earl Shelton purchased for him and his
cousins should they ever get the chance
to kill their family nemesis Charlie Harris

My Inside the Shelton Gang co-author Ruthie Shelton texted me the news this morning. James Shelton Zuber, better known simply as Jimmy Zuber, nephew of the Shelton Brothers, died last week in Florida on the 19th. He was 84, and probably the last surviving member of the notorious Shelton Gang. He was the youngest of the three nephews involved in their uncles' gang.

Jimmy was 17 and still in high school in 1947 when gunmen ambushed his uncle Carl Shelton in the Pond Creek Bottoms in Wayne County. His cousin, and Ruthie's father, "Little Carl" Shelton, collected him from school to tell him the news.

While he was never a gunman for the gang, he did serve as a bagman for a bit. After Carl's death his brother Earl took over the duties, but when he moved back to Wayne County to focus on farming, Jimmy got the job. As he told Ruthie and me a few years ago, one of those deliveries was an envelope full of cash to the governor himself in the Illinois Statehouse.

Most interestingly it wasn't to Dwight Green who historians already knew had connections to the gambling rackets, but his successor and later presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. While remembered as a reformer, Stevenson didn't start to shake up Springfield until towards the end of his second year in office, about the same time the Kefauver Hearings brought their investigators to Illinois.

Jimmy was the son of the Shelton's sister Lulu. Following his parents' divorce the Sheltons later kidnapped and brought him back to Illinois to be raised. He wouldn't see his father again until after he reached adulthood. Although the three Shelton brothers known as the gang had step-children at different times, it would be their sister's son and brother Dalta's two boys, "Little Earl" and "Little Carl" that they groomed to be successors.

Zuber never indicated his involvement in any of the gang's violent crimes, as those opportunities were quickly diminishing with Bernie's assassination in 1948, Roy's in 1950, and the multiple attempts on the lives of his uncle Earl, his mother and stepfather, as well as his cousin "Little Earl" in the late 1940s.

Once in Fairfield he had his own close call with the family nemesis Charlie Harris who declined to shoot the then still teenager. Later his uncle Earl gave all three nephews rifles with the instruction to kill Harris if they ever had the chance. Ruthie's father had long since parted with his, but Jimmy proudly showed us his which he still had.

After the extended Shelton clan fled Fairfield for Florida (but not after sneaking his mother Lulu who was recovering from being machine-gunned by Harris out a hospital window), Jimmy went into construction in Florida. He and his wife raised a family and left the Illinois past behind them mostly.

In the late 1990s he became a source of family information and photographs for Taylor Pensoneau when he researched the Sheltons for his book, Brothers Notorious. Years later I approached Taylor at a book signing for his Charlie Harris book, "Dapper and Deadly," with the intention of getting Jimmy's contact information. Instead he told me about another Shelton family member doing research for a book. That person turned out to be Ruthie.

I know Ruthie met with or talked with Jimmy by phone numerous times as she researched her family history. In the summer of 2012, I had a chance to meet with him at his home as well. He was a delightful subject to interview with his wife surprising us with additional photo albums and he really exciting Ruthie when he mentioned the rifles. (The only frustrating moment that day was him not being able to find the key to the gun cabinet. Ruthie had to wait a few months and another trip before she could hold it.)

His obituary noted that he was cremated. He was a good guy, and will be missed.


Anonymous said...

"Inside the Shelton Gang: One Daughter's Discovery"

Unknown said...

I am the great granddaughter of Big Earl Shelton. My Grandmother, Marjorie E. SHELTON-Barlow was his daughter,and Clara Shelton her mother. I have recently started researching my roots and found that the Notorious Shelton gang was my family! I purchased Taylor Pensoneu's book. My Gram and her family (Mother Clara and brother Fred) relocated to Warren, PA sometime in the 1930's. She was a seamstress during the war. I am looking for as much information as possible as this is very intriguing and exciting material.

Debbie Goodwin said...

I am the grand-daughter of Donald Earl Shelton, who, according to my cousin, was the youngest member of the gang. Feel free to contact me if you would like to exchange information. I'll tell you what little I know about the Shelton Gang.
I'm on Facebook, you can find me through Ruthie Shelton's Facebook friends if you have trouble finding me.

Debbie Goodwin

Unknown said...

I am related also. My great grandpa was Paul Shelton who is the father of Larry Shelton. Paul's wife was Lorretta Shelton. It's neat to have some far blood ties. I spoke to Bill Shelton a little about the gang.

Ruthie Shelton said...

Order a signed copy of Inside the Shelton Gang: One Daughter's Discovery from
Thank you.

Unknown said...

I met him once while I was working at Carmi Walmart. There was a young lady pushing him in a wheelchair up to my register, he put his items on the counter and I greeted him with how are you doing today I proceeded to checkout is items .he paid me In cash and them put his hand out to shake and told me I was a fine young man and I just shook the hand of the l as d of the Shelton gang. I had goosebumps and a memory to charish. R.I.P. buddy.

MsPoetess said...

I am wondering how one can characterize it as a "close call" when Charlie Harris "declined" to shoot a teenager. Having met him when my children were very young--1984--he was visiting family in rural Wayne County, I don't buy for one second that he tried to shoot Lulu. Over the years, I had heard only bits and pieces about my two-greats Uncle Charlie, so I had to meet him for myself. He was a small built, thin, pleasant gentleman meticulously dressed. He had kind, gentle eyes and a peaceful smile. He loved children. He held my youngest daughter, Lindsey, that day. If you knew nothing of his history having once been a part of the Shelton Gang, you would never guess he was capable of any such thing. He was not, however, innocent. And obviously, neither were the Sheltons. But my Aunt Kitty told me once about a conversation she had with him in which he reportedly stated that he never killed anyone who didn't deserve it, so I guess once he left the gang (after they gave him counterfeit money--which he was unaware was counterfeit and was caught with it and served time for), he became a sort of vigilante. Not justifying him--just sharing his thought process. Only God knows the truth about some things. I do know, however, through family members, that he made his peace with God before his reportedly peaceful death in Kansas at 91.

Unknown said...

My grandpa was Bill Shelton that was married to Hazel Shelton. They lived outside of Vienna towards Simpson. My mom was Madeline Shelton

Debbie Goodwin said...

My grandfather was Donald Earl Shelton, who was supposedly the youngest member of the Shelton gang and I'm trying to get information about him online but I can't find anything. I'm not sure how he was related to Big Earl but if you have any information about him I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me fill in the blanks. Thank you

Debbie Goodwin said...

Hey Ruthie, we've talked on Facebook but you might not remember me. My grandfather was Donald Earl Shelton, who I was told by my cousin and sister was the youngest member of the Shelton gang. Do you happen to have any information about my grandpa? I can give you more info about his parents but I think he was possibly a nephew of your great grandpa, I'm not sure how he fit in the gang or just how young he was at the time. I don't think his dad was in the gang but who knows? Any information you can give me about my grandpa would be very much appreciated.

Sydbockhol said...

My grandma’s maiden name was Mary Shelton daughter to Lester F. Shelton. She used to tell me how the Shelton Gang was a disgrace to the family and if anyone would ever mention them they got smacked.

lroyal1978 said...

We also know that my grandfather Lester Fred Shelton had a family bible that had some pages containing family information were missing or torn out of it.

Unknown said...

I was born in Fairfield Illinois. I grew up hearing all about the stories of the Shelton gang.Black Charlie used to come by our house and bring us kids candy but my Mom wouldn't let us have it she would throw it away because she said it wasnt got legally because of Charlie.
vvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehgThen my parents moved us to Cisne Illinois which is about 15 to 20 miles from Fairfield. Our neighbors were a Shelton family. Paul Shelton and his wife and two children Larry Shelton and Karen Shelton. They were a good Christain family. They were not involved in the mafia family business.

Unknown said...

My Grandmother was Carrie Shelton. So I am related to the Shelton family.

Unknown said...

My great aunt Lura Gash was from Fairfiel. That was my Grandmother Carrie's sister. My father didn't choose to continue the family bussiness. I am hoping to be able to message any family left.

Unknown said...

My Grandmother was Carrie Shleton. My father was Donald wade. My great aunt was Lurs Gash of Fairfield. My father was a direct relation to the Sheltons. I live now in Willow hill il. But Grew up in Champaign il. I would like to share family history I have. Joann Wade 217-480-7713