Outlaws: Rebecca Rogers
The Flapper Bandit
Bank cashier Frank Jamison thought very little about the slight young woman, looking to be only seven- teen or eighteen, who came into the Farm- ers’ National Bank in Buda in December 1926. She said that she worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise, and she spent the morning talking to local farmers about cotton crops and government policies, jotting down their comments in a loose-leaf binder. Politely she had asked permission to use a typewriter inside the tellers’ cages. As lunchtime approached, Jamison stepped inside the walk-in vault for something. “As I came out she was standing five or six steps away with a gun pointed at me,” he said. Within a week, newspapers across the nation were describing the thief, Rebecca Bradley Rogers, as the Flapper Bandit. During the 1920s, “flapper” referred to a young woman who showed disdain for conventional dress and behavior.
Rebecca was born in Texarkana, Arkansas, in 1905. She moved with her parents to Fort Worth and attended Central High School, where she met Otis Rogers. Upon graduation they both went to the University of Texas in Austin, and married secretly at the courthouse in Georgetown in 1925.
Rebecca Bradley Rogers worked toward a bachelor’s degree in history, managing to pay her tuition, fees, and living expenses. Things appeared to be going smoothly until her mother lost her job and moved to Austin to live with her, placing additional strain on her daughter’s resources.
Secret husband Otis Rogers had no means with which to assist her, for he was completing his own studies and then attempting to establish a legal practice in Amarillo. The newspapers at the time were filled with reports of the epidemic of bank robbery plaguing the country, so Rebecca decided that she, too, would take some money from a bank.
After a failed attempt to rob the Farmers’ State Bank in Round Rock (which included setting a nearby vacant home on fire to distract employees), Rebecca headed back to Austin, then south to Buda. She spotted the cream-colored brick Farmers’ National Bank, and adopted her reporter persona.
Ordering employees Frank Jamison and J.R. Howe at gunpoint to open the safe inside the bank vault, Rebecca helped her- self to about a thousand dollars. Locking the men inside the vault, she headed into Austin. Her only problem was getting stuck on a muddy road and having to ask a farmer to pull her out.
Rebecca took her car to a local garage to have the mud washed off. It was there, at the corner of Fifth and Brazos streets, that a police officer spotted the vehicle. Three officers waited to arrest Rebecca when she returned to pick up the car.
Rebecca was tried four times for either arson or armed robbery and in the end, Williamson County authorities quashed the arson charges, while Hays County officials dismissed the robbery charges (the day before she bore her first child with Otis). Rebecca Rogers was a free woman.
Sheriff George M. Allen reported that after he and Rebecca passed through Buda on the way to the county jail in San Marcos, “She burst out laughing and said, ‘I have a whole lot to live down, but not as much as those men back there who let a little girl hold them up with an empty gun.’”
The Farmers’ National Bank building (now a retail shop) sits on the 300 block of N. Main St. in Buda. Call the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce, 512/295-9999.
From the January 2013 issue.