Samuel P. Cowley was born in Franklin, Idaho in July 1899. He went to the Oneida Stake Academy, the Utah Agricultural College in Logan, Utah, and George Washington University in Washington, DC. He graduated from the latter with a law degree.
Cowley entered the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1929 as an agent and was promoted to inspector in 1934.
It was in July 1934 that a headline reading “Former Preston Man Helps Get Dillinger” ran on the front page of the Preston Citizen. Early reports said that it was Cowley’s bullet that ended the gangster’s life, but that wasn’t certain. Dillinger was gunned down after attending a picture show at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. The film he had been watching was Manhattan Melodrama starring Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and William Powell.
Things went mostly right when Cowley participated in taking Dillinger down. Not so with “Baby Face” Nelson, whose real name was Lester Gillis.
Just months after the gunfight in Chicago, on November 27, 1934, Cowley and Special Agent Herman E. Hollis stopped Nelson’s car with gunfire. Nelson, and companion John Paul Chase came out of the crippled car shooting. Cowley and Hollis returned fire, hitting and severely wounding Nelson, who would die that evening. Unfortunately, both Cowley and Hollis were also shot. Hollis died that day. Cowley passed away the next morning. John Paul Chase was later captured, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.