Chilling Tales: “Thrill-Slayers” Gallogly and Harsh
We are kicking off October with Chilling Tales of DeKalb. Read about the “Thrill- Slayers” of Oglethorpe University, Richard Gray Gallogly and George Rutherford Harsh, Jr.
By Rebecca Selem, Exhibits & Communications Coordinator
The following story includes mentions of murder and attempted suicide.
What could possibly push two affluent, educated young men to become robbers and murderers? Boredom, apparently.
Richard Gray Gallogly, was known simply as “Dick” to his friends at Oglethorpe University. Descended from one of Atlanta’s most prosperous early families, he was a well-connected young man with a light course schedule and a lot of time on his hands – when he wasn’t attending society parties and fancy fraternity dinners, that is.
Despite the times (prohibition), Richard Gallogly and his classmates frequently partook in hobbies such as drinking heavily and looking for trouble wherever they could find it. Around this time, Gallogly became acquainted with Milwaukee native George Rutherford Harsh, Jr., nicknamed “Junie,” who was also from an incredibly wealthy and privileged background. The two shared time in the same fraternity at Oglethorpe and were known troublemakers.
Upon returning to school for the 1928 fall semester, Harsh brought with him a Colt Model 1911 .45 caliber pistol. This made things much more interesting for the boys and they quickly began brainstorming what new fun could be had with it. One night in early October, they came up with the idea to begin robbing businesses for the sheer thrill of it.
Harsh, Gallogly, and potentially others, created a pact and put their plans into action. Harsh would enter the targeted establishments with the gun in hand, while Gallogly waited in the car, serving as the getaway driver. However, there were instances of both boys entering the establishment with perhaps another unknown person acting as the getaway driver. On more than one occasion, Gallogly may have stood outside the targeted business with a rifle in hand as an added threat if cooperation was in question.
They targeted drug stores, gas stations, grocery stores and more. In October of 1928, they attempted seven holdups, two ending with deadly consequences.
On October 6, the boys targeted the A&P Grocery on 1004 Hemphill Avenue. A struggle ensued and ended with a grocery clerk getting shot and killed. Another holdup, occurring in mid-October, occurred at a drugstore. Gunfire was exchanged and Harsh ended up with a bullet in his hip, while the pharmacist’s clerk, Willard Smith, was shot in the lung and died a couple of days later. Panicked and bloodied, Harsh reached out to a close friend, J. D. Wright, who took him to St. Joseph’s infirmary for treatment.
From The Atlanta Constitution, October 29, 1928 via Newspapers.com.
Unfortunately for Harsh, this visit led police right to him. On October 27, he was picked up and taken into the station. He quickly confessed to the seven robberies and two murders, even naming his accomplice – Richard Gallogly. Just hours later, Gallogly was picked up by police from Athens, Georgia, where he was attending a college football game. Dubbing Harsh as the “squealer,” Gallogly was furious about being named as an accomplice and refused to admit any wrongdoing. The pair became bitter enemies from this point on.
In January 1929, George Harsh was convicted for the murder of Willard Smith – earning him a death sentence. He was set to be executed by means of the electric chair but his sentence was modified shortly after his trial to life in prison. Richard Gallogly and his well-paid attorneys tried their best to fight the murder charges but he ended up pleading guilty and was also sentenced to life in prison.
From The Atlanta Journal, October 7, 1939 via Newspapers.com.
A decade later, in October 1939, Gallogly attempted to end his life while in prison. The harassment and prison conditions proved too much for him to handle. He survived the attempt but had a nervous breakdown not long after and was hospitalized.
Gallogly was released from the facility and was transported back to the prison, accompanied by his mother, his new bride (whom he married while in prison), and two guards. On route to the prison he managed to escape custody by waving around a fake gun, and fled with his wife. The couple were on the run for a number of months – authorities scouring the borders of Georgia and South Carolina. However, they had made it all the way to Texas and managed to avoid being captured until Gallogly decided to turn himself in – hoping the prison system of Texas would be better than Georgia’s. By March of 1940, he was back in a Georgia prison once again.
For all the suffering they caused, Richard Gallogly and George Harsh didn’t stay in prison for very long. Due to the wealth and connections of their families, both men were pardoned by former Georgia Governor E. D. Rivers. By January 13, 1941, they were free men.