The first time I saw this picture from a hint on Ancestry.com I was intrigued. My family has always been law abiding from all accounts I had ever heard or read so to see this Folsom Prison mugshot was pretty shocking. His name was interesting to me also. Ledger was actually this man’s mother’s maiden surname, Daunt was his maternal grandmother’s surname and Veazey was his father’s surname. I found it interesting right away that he was named after his family surnames. Ledger would have been my mother’s first cousin, her father’s nephew. I don’t think mom knew him or of him or she would have talked about him I am sure. Ledger was born in Louisiana where my grandfather was born, but my grandfather moved to California when Ledger was just a young boy.
I started researching Ledger to see if I could find out why he was in Folsom Prison, which is near Sacramento, California. What I eventually found is a man who was born in 1906 and seemed to have a very good and law abiding life until 1934 when he was arrested for first degree robbery and sentenced to 20 years at the Missouri state penitentiary .
Ledger served about 4 years of that sentence, was close to his first parole hearing but decided to escape instead. He was a trusted prisoner and had even earned time off his sentence when he helped out in the prison hospital during an outbreak of an illness. He then headed to California and instead of keeping quiet and obeying the law, he got caught passing bad checks. He was arrested in 1940 and sentenced to that stint in Folsom Prison, where he stayed until 1944 when he was returned to Missouri State Pen. I wrote to the Missouri Pen and was able to get his 1934 booking pic and then this one from when he was returned to them in 1944.
It was during this time in his prison life where Ledger came up with an idea to make some money. He filed income tax returns for inmates. Before 1943 when withholding taxes were implemented, taxes were not usually paid by people who had low incomes. So Ledger figured out that if the inmates had worked at least part of the previous year then they were probably entitled to a tax refund and he worked out a deal where he would file the tax return for the inmate and they would split the refund 50/50. He did pretty well for himself with this scheme except that he upset someone who turned him into the IRS and he was investigated for tax evasion as he did not claim his income from the tax return service he provided. I found numerous newspaper articles from all over the country that explained how the IRS was taking him to court over tax evasion. Here is one that made the Syracuse New York Journal on Oct 4, 1950:
I could not find out what happened to his IRS court case but I did find that Ledger never did quite give up his life of dubious choices. He moved around a lot and seemed to make trouble for himself wherever he went. He continued to file income tax returns for the “down and out” and seems to have made a good sum doing it. But he also kept up his penchant for writing bad checks and he was caught for that in Oklahoma in 1963 according to this article that I found:
It seems he just couldn’t keep his nose clean! I haven’t found a death record for him yet. But I did find one for a Donald L. Veazey with the same birth day and month and the same maiden name for his mother – I have sent away for that death certificate, I am going to guess that is him. If so, it means he died in June 1966. I don’t know if he was alone, in a hospital when he died- if the Donald Veazey is him, he died in Marin, California. That is where San Quentin prison is so maybe he lived out his life there.
My biggest find was a newspaper article written by Peter Wyden (father of the Oregon senator) in 1950 for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Peter interviewed Ledger when he was living in Columbia, Missouri, shortly after his parole. It’s very good and even has cartoons on it. Mr. Wyden really got into Ledger and seemed to paint a true picture of a man who was not a victim of circumstance, but was his own worst enemy. Here is a link to the article if you would like to read it: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/43619878/
I am not sure if you need a subscription to Newspapers.com or not. If you click on the newspaper I think it opens into a page that you can enlarge to read it.
I am so surprised at how Ledger turned out in his life. He came from a well educated family. He had a college degree and was an accountant at a college in his younger years. Why he decided to take up a shady life and constantly get caught is lost to time. He was my cousin, I never knew him. But I am still glad I got to know him through the records and newspaper accounts, I think I would have liked him.