The true story of America’s Oldest Bank Robber



Crime – A true story

Think robbing banks is a young man’s game? Meet J.L. Hunter Rountree. Born in 1911, Rountree was a Houston businessman who made his living selling winches for oil rigs. He sold the business for millions, but his Cinderella story didn’t last long.

In 1965, he took a sizable loan to invest in a shipyard, but when the bank called his note before the agreed-upon time, Rountree went into bankruptcy. Things went downhill from there. His stepson died in 1986, and his wife of 50 years followed soon after. Despondent, the 83-year-old fell into booze and drugs before marrying and divorcing a 31-year-old. Frustrated with life, Rountree decided to shake things up a bit . . . by robbing banks.

Rountree was 86 when he hit the SouthTrust Bank in Biloxi, Mississippi. He ordered the teller to fork over the cash, but before he could escape, somebody followed him outside, and the game was over. The hoary holdup man got three years’ probation and a $260 fine, but he was back at it again a few months later.

This time, he got $8,000 from a bank in Pensacola, Florida, but an enthusiastic patron took him out with a karate kick. The grandpa earned three years behind bars, and when he was released in 2002, he headed back to Texas for one last heist. Sure, Rountree blamed banks for ruining his life, but it was more than just revenge. “You want to know why I rob banks?” he once asked a reporter. “It’s fun. I feel good, awful good.”

When he walked into the First American Bank in Abilene, Rountree was 91. After handing the teller a note reading “ROBBERY,” he tried to escape with his $1,999. Meanwhile, the bank’s vice president spotted his license plate number. Not long after, the old man was leading police on a high-speed car chase before finally pulling over. And when a cop approached his window, gun drawn, Rountree told the whippersnapper,“Take that damn thing out of my face.”

When Rountree went to trial, the elderly desperado earned 12 years for his final offense. He spent the last year of his life behind bars before dying at 92, going down in history as America’s oldest bank robber.