The True Story Behind This Famously Arresting 1945 Photograph

Illustration for article titled The True Story Behind This Famously Arresting 1945 Photograph

What’s going on here, exactly? The date is Oct. 17, 1945. The place is Pontiac, Mich. The woman is Deputy Sheriff Clemmia A. Hurst, of Lee County, Ky. The man in handcuffs is Raney Allen, 25 years old and wanted for murder—all four feet of him.


This study-in-contrasts photo, taken just before Hurst and Allen boarded a Kentucky-bound bus, became a sensation for obvious reasons. Life magazine gave the image a full page in its Oct. 29, 1945 issue, with a bit of context accompanying it: Clemmia Hurst’s husband, Z.T. Hurst, was the sheriff of Beattyville, Ky., a town of just over 1,000 residents. Z.T. was also the county tax collector, see, so he wasn’t able to zip up to Michigan to collect Allen, wanted for shooting three men, one of whom died of his injuries. So he sent his wife to fetch the suspect, and as Life reports:

This was not in the least impractical. Mrs. Hurst, a regular deputy who was once warden in a prison for women, is 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighs 215 pounds. Allen is 4 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 72 pounds. In due time Mrs. Hurst arrived in Pontiac, handcuffed her prisoner, posed for [the] photograph above, and left for Beattyville. In due time she reached there. She did not have a bit of trouble with 72-pound Raney Allen.

According to this undated clipping from the Beattyville Enterprise (check out the photo of a 16-year-old Clemmia!), her career went way beyond bringing fugitives to justice:

She has served as state parole officer for 60 counties; was in charge of supervision of the state penitentiary for two years; served as Lee County Court Clerk six years and a deputy sheriff for four years; served as a special tax commissioner in Lee County; was active in Red Cross and WPA. Before coming to Lee County, she operated Hurst Hotel at Hazard for six years. She now operates Smith Personal Care Home, Beattyville, Ky.

Clemmia Hurst, known in later years as Clemmia Hurst Smith, died in 1974. Whatever happened to Raney Allen has been lost to history. But their 440-mile bus ride together lives on, thanks to that unforgettable photograph.

Top Image: AP Photo



Hammond is doing some weird stuff for the new Amazon Top Gear. Is that Clarkson behind him?