Getting to know John Becker

I’ve already written in detail about the murder of John A. Becker in 1917 in Chicago.

But my main purpose in researching him was to try and see if I could find out what he was like as a person. I still have a ways to go. But here’s what I’ve found so far.

To write my story about John Becker’s murder, I researched a lot of records about the case. Some of these have some interesting little bits about him personally. But I have to admit that to this point I have been a little bit disappointed, especially in the local St. Louis newspapers that had access to his family.

In any case, here is a bit of a mini-profile on John Becker:

Before he enlisted in the Navy in May 1917, John Becker worked for the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Assocation as a glassmaker; he also possibly worked for them in some capacity as a driver. This was just a couple years before Prohibition.

At the time of his enlistment, Becker was five feet seven and one half inches tall and weighed 151 pounds. He was blonde; his enlistment papers describe him as “ruddy.”

Becker and most of the rest of his family were Catholic. I have found some of his siblings were baptized at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and others at Holy Trinity.

Speaking of siblings, Becker had two brothers and five sisters. He was the sixth child born in the family.

He was of German descent. His mother, Catherine Brinkmann, was born in Germany. His father, Frank J. Becker, was born in Kentucky, but Frank’s parents were German immigrants. The family lived in north St. Louis. Over the years they lived on streets like Salisbury St., Vest Ave., and N. 25th St.

Multiple friends and acquaintances confirmed that Becker enjoyed the occasional drink, but he wasn’t prone to get drunk.

“Becker was a peaceable fellow,” said Mathew Mullen of naval company I. Mullen was from St. Louis and had known Becker for 10 years. “He drank beer. I never saw him drunk.”

J.A. Krusberg, commander of Camp Perry at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, said that Becker drank a little, but was always on time.

The St. Louis Star said Becker’s relatives indicated he had never been in trouble.

Becker did meet a girl in Chicago, Mary Williams. She was a telephone operator and met Becker through mutual acquaintances. They visited in person only once, but stayed in touch for a month by writing letters and making phone calls.

Williams told authorities that Becker had a cousin in Chicago who lived on Gladys Ave.

Other documents

I mentioned in my story behind the story entry that I had the opportunity to scan several documents in John Becker’s official military personnel file. I have now put two of these online as PDFs for anyone who might like to look at them:

  • John Becker’s service record – This is incomplete, but it has the most interesting pages, including the pages with his signature and fingerprints.

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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