Skip to main content

This is the latest entry in a series of posts highlighting inmate photographs in the records of the Virginia Penitentiary.  Clinton Kirby, the subject of this week’s post, was convicted three times for housebreaking, shot while trying to escape from the Medical College of Virginia, and diagnosed as psychotic.

On 19 August 1932, Clinton Kirby, a convicted felon serving a ten-year sentence for robbery, was brought from the State Farm in Goochland County to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in Richmond.

Photograph of Clinton Kirby, #42236, Inmate Photographs, Records of the Virginia Penitentiary, Series II. Prisoner Records, Subseries B. Photographs, Box 38, Accession 41558, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Kirby was at MCV to have his arm x-rayed. He broke it in 1931 and it had caused him discomfort ever since.  Within minutes of arriving at the Dispensary Building, Kirby rushed out the front door and ran north on 11th Street trying to escape. H.H. Bowles, the guard who accompanied Kirby to MCV, raced after him firing two warning shots in the air. “But after wasting two good bullets that way,” reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Bowles fired two shots directly at Kirby. The first shot missed. The second shot hit Kirby in his left arm just after he crossed Leigh Street in front of the city dump. Bowles apprehended him within seconds. Kirby returned to the hospital by ambulance and surgeons removed the slug from his arm.

Kirby was convicted in July 1930 in the Richmond City Hustings Court on seven charges of housebreaking and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.   In 1933, Penitentiary Psychiatrist James Asa Shield diagnosed Kirby as psychotic.  “He has a nervous disorder that we diagnose Dementi Precoix, paranoid type,” Shield wrote Penitentiary Superintendent Rice M. Youell on 26 October 1933.  “These individuals are never able to adjust to civilization and the paranoid types are suspicious of everyone and the predominating characteristic of this type is resentment.”  Kirby was sent to Southwestern State Hospital in Marion, Virginia, on 4 April 1935, presumably to be treated for this disorder.

It is unknown when or under what circumstance Kirby was released from Southwestern State Hospital.  In 1939, Kirby was convicted for a second time of housebreaking by the Richmond City Hustings Court.  He was sentenced to two years in the penitentiary and was discharged on 6 January 1941.  Kirby didn’t stay out of trouble for long.  He was convicted in Richmond on three charges of house-breaking in 1944.  He was sentenced to six years in the penitentiary; he received an additional twelve for his third conviction.  Kirby was discharged on 11 March 1958.

-Roger Christman, LVA Senior State Records Archivist

Roger Christman

Senior State Records Archivist

Leave a Reply