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“Melvin Purvis my godfather.” Now there’s a combination of words I wasn’t expecting to hear. Nor do I expect to be able to make my way from Texas Hill Country to Camden, South Carolina (though I would appreciate a break from the heat). Members of TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia situated in the Palmetto State are well advised to head over to Camden Archives and Museum (on any day other than Sunday) to view the Ross E. Beard Jr.’s collection of historic firearms, initiated by the legendary FBI agent himself. “Purvis was an avid gun collector and he hired Beard, then 10 years old and his godson, to clean some guns that had been packed in grease and crated. As a reward, he gave Beard the first firearm in what would grow over the next 74 years into a collection of more than 1,000. ‘The first gun I collected, Mr. Purvis gave me,’ said Beard, now 84 and living in Camden. ‘One of John Dillinger’s machine guns.'” Included in the exhibit of 400 guns: one of Dillinger’s sawed-off shotguns and the gun that took Purvis’ life. How great is that?


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  1. Purvis was a real G-man. Wow, he gave his “God Son” one of Delllinger’s machine guns. I guess Purvis was a 2nd A guy.

  2. Dillinger stole his machine guns. Imagine that. Good thing they past the “1934 NFA” oh wait . . .He held up the police station . . . lol.

  3. Check out the guy in the orange hat behind him at 1:32 in the video. Sneaky Pete holster or giant cell phone?

    • I’m going with giant cell phone, based on the way it’s hanging half-assed off his back pocket.

  4. I’d love to go spend an afternoon in that place. I’d be sad that I couldn’t touch, though.

  5. the gun that took Purvis’ life.

    Say what? I thought that Purvis took his own life, either on purpose or by accident. Maybe I was wrong. Did the gun sneak up on poor Mel when he was sleeping? A really mean one will do that, y’know.

    • Well, Mr. Beard does describe it in the video as “the gun that accidentally killed Melvin Purvis.” I know a lot of old southern men like Mr. Beard, and I’m pretty sure if you tried to split that particular hair with him, you’d get a look that would make you question your own intelligence.

      The difference is in “plain spoken;” he’s just saying what happened, and not trying to import any emotional freighting to it either way.

    • There were rumors of suspicious circumstances with Purvis’ death. He was a private investigator after leaving the FBI. That departure wasn’t exactly “friendly.” J. Edgar was very jealous of Purvis.

      • Jedgar never did take a shine to anyone stealing his thunder, of which there was a large amount.

  6. Since childhood I’ve heard that Dillinger’s famous tool was preserved in a jar in some museum or other. They should put that tool on sale also.

    I’m surprised JEdgar didn’t keep it in his home.

  7. Aww, dang it! I was jut in Camden for a Masonic meeting on Saturday. That would have been a nice diversion!!

  8. Saw the collection today! AWESOME!!! Mr. Beard personally told us about the guns, and their histories. Everyone needs to experience the stories of that collection while you still are able to. A really nice man, and he told us the Purvis version of the Dillinger and Floyd takedowns, and the true version of Purvis’ death. Lots of other guns too, with wonderful stories. A Sioux rifle wrapped in buckskin, used at Little Big Horn. More others than can be described here. Treat yourselves! Again, go see it, you’ll get a lot of great and personal history that won’t be available forever.

  9. Lesson in life # 1026: Sometimes you find the most amazing things when you are looking for something else! I bumped into Mr. Beard at the front desk of the Camden Museum and Archives just the other day. I had spent a couple of days there on an ‘ancestor hunt’ and wanted to get a phone # from the kind gentleman at the front desk who had spent an entire afternoon helping me search. He and Mr. Beard were engrossed in conversation. Somehow guns came up and I mentioned my uncle, the ‘gun collector’, and Mr. Beard invited me to come look at his collection right there in the museum! He gave me and a couple of other young men from his hometown of Timmonsville, SC a very personal tour, telling stories about each and every gun there; their history, how he acquired them. I was dumfounded by the quality of this collection and asked him, why Camden? He told me that he had lived in Camden for 53 years and he considered it his home. He was getting old (84) and wanted to find a permanent home for his collection, so he thought it appropriate to bring it home. This is a labor of love for Mr. Beard. He now has 400 of his 1000 gun collection housed at the Camden Museum and will eventually have them all there. My friends, it is ‘world class’. Don’t miss it if you’re anywhere near Camden, SC. And Camden has a rich history dating back to the 1700’s. It is well worth a visit.

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