This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary. Ted Calvert, the subject of this week’s post, escaped the State Lime Grinding Plant after a gun battle, only to be recaptured in California.
In May 1929, 24-year-old Ted K. Calvert was sentenced by the Stafford County Circuit Court to five years in the Virginia Penitentiary for forgery. Calvert was assigned to work at State Lime Grinding Plant No. 1 in Augusta County.
On 6 October 1931, six prisoners, including Calvert, attempted to escape during a daytime shootout between the convicts and guards. Plant officials believed that the prisoners’ friends planted several guns in the limestone quarry where they were working. Two prisoners were shot by the guards and seriously wounded. Four others, including Calvert, escaped.
Upon his return to Virginia, Calvert was assigned to State Convict Road Force Camp 29. In a letter to Penitentiary Superintendent Rice M. Youell, dated 3 September 1932, Calvert promised “to make a good record now.” “I assure you sir,” he wrote, “I am really trying and succeeding in making good under the able supervision of Sargent [sic] Brent.” Calvert added that “I am sure you will have no more trouble from me.” Trouble found Calvert in January 1933 when he lost 20% of his good conduct time and was placed in step chains for refusing to obey orders. On 28 February 1933 Sergeant Brent reported to Youell that Calvert threatened the camp foreman. Calvert wanted the foreman “to lay off him,” and “if it wasn’t for the man with the gun, he (Calvert) would split his damn head open with a shovel.” As punishment, Calvert had to stand in handcuffs until bedtime for ten days. There is no other record of any further disciplinary action taken against Calvert.
In a 16 August 1936 letter to Youell, Calvert asked for help in securing an early release to take a job in California. A friend had offered him the chance “to prove to my-self and society that I have reformed.” Calvert asserted that “it is my desire to become a useful member of society and it is within your power to help me.” Youell did not respond. Calvert was discharged on 24 July 1937.
-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist