Probasco Sowers to chronicle Perry’s mid-century gangster, Tommy Young

Perry's mid-century criminal Tommy Young will have his colorful life reviewed April 10 by Juli Probasco Sowers at the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry.

young dandyThomas Edward Young was many things — a native Iowan, a self-taught pilot, a man with a very high IQ, a businessman, a bear-wrestler, a Perry junkyard owner, a fellow traveler with gangsters, an escape artist and a family man.

Highlights from Young’s busy life will themselves be brought to life Sunday, April 10 at 1:30 pm. in a lecture by Juli Probasco-Sowers, lingtime Perry-area journalist, who is writing an historical novel based on Young’s colorful life.

Probasco Sowers’ presentation is part of the latest exhibition in the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry. The show is called, “Nefarious Perry” and features newspaper clippings and several artifacts from other noteworthy stories of Perry’s colorful criminal history. The exhibit is open now at the Carnegie and runs through May 23.

The annals of Perry's criminal history and the lawbreakers who peopled it are on display now through May 23 at the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry.
The annals of Perry’s criminal history and the lawbreakers who peopled it are on display now through May 23 at the Carnegie Library Museum in Perry.

Young is perhaps most notorious for making the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list during a crime spree in 1951 and 1952 and then spending 10 years as a prisoner on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. He was one of the last 27 prisoners to walk out of the infamous prison when it closed in 1963.

Probasco Sowers has combed through FBI records and prison records and conducted interviews with family members, which together give a glimpse into Young’s life on his journey from the rugged and impoverished coal camps in Dallas County where he grew up, through life on the run, as an Alcatraz inmate and his final homecoming and fresh start.

Juli Probasco-Sowers
Juli Probasco-Sowers

“His story is almost unbelievable,” Probasco Sowers said. “Some parts of his journey we just don’t know, and that’s where the book moves from creative non-fiction to the level of a novel.”

Probasco-Sowers said she is looking forward to sharing the wealth of information she has gathered on Young over the last four years for a historical novel she is writing.


  1. He was my friend and told me many stories of his history. I wish I would have recorded them. He grew up in Moran, and I lived there when Tommy was telling me the history, the unbelievable history. I checked numerous stories of his with the elderly ladies who also lived in Moran, and they would show me newspaper articles to back up the stories. I will try to be at her presentation.

  2. Hi Karl, I would like to meet with you sometime to talk about what you remember. I’m trying to get a better sense of life in the coal mining camps. I know it was pretty rough living when he lived there as a kid.
    Hope you can be at the presentation!


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