The Strange Crime That Landed Elvis Presley's Dad In Prison

No question, Elvis Presley loved his family. His first recording was one he paid to make, a gift for his mother, Gladys. When he bought the Graceland property, it was partly for his own privacy, but also for that of his parents — they were being overrun by his fans at the previous house he'd bought them. As History tells us, he was an only child — though born a twin, his brother, Jesse, was stillborn. His father, Vernon, was just 18 at the time; his mother, Gladys, was four years older. They'd been married for about 18 months, tying the knot on June 17, 1933, according to documentation posted on the Elvis Australia Fan Club site.

His parents returned the affection. All That's Interesting reports that in 1978, shortly after Elvis's death, Vernon told Good Housekeeping, "My love for my son began even before he was born. At that time there was almost nobody poorer than my wife Gladys and me. But we were thrilled and excited when we learned that we were going to be parents. I was only 18 years old, but throughout Gladys' pregnancy it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to take care of her and the baby."

When Elvis died, Vernon was named executor of the estate

But times were still hard, with the nation still struggling against the Great Depression, especially in the rural South of around Tupelo, Mississippi, where Elvis was born at home, per Biography — a home built by Vernon, lacking indoor plumbing and electricity. Vernon mostly worked odd jobs, a buck here and there, trying his best to provide for his wife and baby. At one point he sold a hog, but the buyer shorted him, giving him a check for a mere $4. As the Australian Elvis Fan Club tells it, Vernon talked the situation over with his brother-in-law and a friend. Why not change the number on the check to what it was supposed to be? (Another account claims the buyer's signature was traced onto a blank check.) Whatever the circumstances or the amount, the boys were caught. Vernon spent six months in jail awaiting trial, and when he finally appeared in court was found guilty and on May 25, 1938, sentenced to three years in the Mississippi State Prison.

During his incarceration, Gladys lost the house; she and young Elvis had to move in with relatives. Vernon was released early, on February 6, 1939, partly because of good behavior. The sentence was indefinitely suspended in 1940.

When Elvis died in 1977, Vernon was named executor of his son's estate. Vernon died two years later — some say of a broken heart, from burying his only child.