Samuel Parkinson Cowley was born July 23, 1899 in Franklin, Idaho the son of Mathias Foss and Luella Smart Parkinson Cowley. (Mathias F. Cowley was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and had numerous polygamous wives.) Around 1910 Samuel and his mother moved to Logan, Utah where he graduated from high school. The following year Cowley enrolled at the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). After graduating from the UAC, Cowley was called to serve as a missionary in Hawaii by the LDS Church and he labored there from 1914 to 1920. After completing his missionary service, Cowley enrolled at George Washington University and studied law. Upon graduating he took a position with the FBI in 1929. In 1934 Cowley was promoted to the rank of inspector.
In the early summer of 1934 J. Edgar Hoover assigned Cowley to preside over several agency operations to catch a string of notorious criminals. One of Cowley's investigations aimed to catch and arrest John Dillinger, then "public enemy number one." That summer Cowley and his team located and surrounded Dillinger as he exited the Biograph Theater in Chicago. A gun battle erupted and Dillinger was killed.
After this assignment Cowley next set out to catch Baby Face Nelson (alias Lester Gillis), an infamous criminal of the time who was wanted for murder and other criminal charges. In November 1934, Cowley and other FBI detectives discovered that Lester Gillis and his accomplices were hiding out near Barrington, Illinois. When the FBI attempted to make an arrest a gun battle erupted. During this firefight Cowley was mortally wounded and later died on November 28, 1934. National and local government officials attended Cowley's funeral in Utah.
Respect Paid to Cowley,The Herald Journal, 8 May 1972.
Hoover, J. Edgar, Samuel P. Cowley of the FBI Millennial Star, Special Sunday School Issue, Vol. 121 # 9 (Sept 1959), 368-370.
This two-box collection contains papers concerning Samuel P. Cowley and his family spanning the period from 1934 to 1974. This collection is comprised of materials assembled during the 1970s by John J. Stewart, a former USU faculty member, who was conducting research on Samuel P. Cowley during this period. This collection contains Stewart's research materials in the form of publications about Cowley (1935-1974), oral history interviews with the Cowley family (1971), Cowley family correspondence (1930s), reports, and various other papers. This collection also contains Stewart's correspondence (1971-1974) with the Cowley family concerning his research on S.P. Cowley. For an unknown reason Stewart never published his findings.
Researcher Note: Researchers further interested in Cowley should see USU Special Collections' Edgar B. Brossard Collection; COLL MSS 4. Brossard was the brother-in-law of Cowley and some papers in the collection concern Cowley and his death.
Restrictions on Access : Restrictions
Open to public research.Restrictions on Use : Copyright
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Utah State University Libraries, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.
Permission to publish material from the Samuel P. Cowley papers must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.Preferred Citation :
Samuel P. Cowley papers, 1934-1975. (COLL MSS 156). Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Arranged in numeric sequence according to Box and Folder.
Acquisition Information :
The materials in this collection were donated to USU Special Collections during the 1970s by John J. Stewart.Related Materials :
Edgar B. Brossard CollectionCOLL MSS 4
Detailed Description of the Collection