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GOD & TEXAS: Buick Bandit

Shorty and Red Roundtree grew up with their three brothers in Brown County, Texas. Born in 1902, Shorty was the eldest with Red being 9 years younger. Red started Roundtree Machinery Company, while Shorty spent his entire career with the Petroleum Producers Company (PPC). Each one was successful in business and gained remarkable wealth at a young age.

Red’s first wife Fay had an infant son which he loved deeply and adopted. The family was enjoying their wealth when life took a gruesome turn. Red’s stepson was killed in an auto accident in Galveston, followed by a string of business failures. At age 75, Red lost Fay to lung cancer. His second marriage ended badly after years of drug abuse. By the age of 87, Red was bankrupt and angry.

In 1926, Shorty married Berta Nichols, and they had three sons. He achieved the position of superintendent with PPC, before his sudden death at the age of 33. A spokesman for PPC said that Shorty was an “untiring, efficient worker and a man of sterling character and rigid honesty. Roundtree was a valuable man on the payroll of this company.” Shorty was also an active member of the First Baptist Church of Olney.

J.L. Hunter (Red) Roundtree robbed his first bank at the age of 87. For the next four years, Red began a cycle of robbing banks, getting caught, going to jail, and then robbing more banks as soon as he was set free. From Texas to Florida, Red used his aging Buick Century to create his own rampage of crime. On one occasion, he achieved speeds of over 90 MPH in a failed attempt to outrun the police.

Red was finally caught for the last time and sentenced to 151 months in federal prison. Guinness World Records gave Red the humiliating distinction of being the oldest convicted bank robber in America. He died in prison at the age of 92. In interrogations before his death, he said that robbing banks was “fun. I feel good, awful good.”

In a prison interview with the Orlando Sentinel in 2001, Rountree said, "A Corpus Christi (Texas) bank that I'd done business with had forced me into bankruptcy. I have never liked banks since.” Later, after acknowledging that he had grown up in a Baptist church, Red said that he still expects to go to Heaven because, “I can’t find a place in the Bible that tells me it’s wrong to rob banks.” He apparently did not read 1 Corinthians 6:10 or Ephesians 5:5.

Shorty and Red remind us of polar opposite brothers like Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his disgraceful brothers. Though we may have the same upbringing, we make choices that affect this life and the life to come. Shorty revered God and received honor. Red sought revenge and received disgrace.

“Do not say, ‘I will repay evil;’ wait on the Lord, and He will deliver you.” (Proverbs 20:22 ESV)

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