Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Cowley Way Got its Name

Samuel P. Cowley
by Ruby Konstantin

Ever wonder how streets get their names?  Here is the story of how Cowley Way came to be named in the development of Clairemont.

When a builder is working out a community development, suggested street names are usually submitted as part of the package awaiting approvals from local governing bodies.

In the case of Cowley Way, the Clairemont developers Louis and Clair Burgener had a very special reason to request "Cowley" be used as a street name in their housing project.  Cowley was the last name of their half-brother and a well respected FBI agent.

Samuel P. Cowley was described by J. Edgar Hoover as “the bravest man I ever knew”.  His bravery was well earned as he brought down two of the 1930’s most notorious gangsters, John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. It was Samuel P. Cowley who led the squad of FBI agents that took down Public Enemy Number One (John Dillinger) outside a Chicago movie theater.

Just four months later, after having lunch with his half-brother Louis, Cowley got the word that Baby Face Nelson had been spotted in a car on a nearby highway. Cowley, along with another agent named Hollis, found Nelson, his wife and another gangster and a gun battle ensued.

Other agents joined in but unfortunately at the end of the 15 minute event both Agents Cowley and Hollis were dead.  Baby Face Nelson, riddled with 17 bullet wounds, managed to steal the agents' car for a temporary escape but was found dead in a ditch later that day.

It was in the late Samuel Cowley's honor that the Burgeners named Cowley Way.

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