Alcatraz marks 50 years since infamous prison closed

Published March 21, 2013

| Associated Press

The National Park Service on Thursday celebrated the 50th anniversary of Alcatraz Island's closure as a federal penitentiary with an exhibit of newly discovered photos of the prison's final hours.

The new display opened five decades after the last shacked prisoners were taken off the infamous prison in San Francisco Bay that once held the likes of gangsters Al Capone and Mickey Cohen.

On that day in 1963, prison guard Jim Albright led the Navy-coat clad prisoners -- considered the nation's most dangerous -- to waiting boats as cameras clicked and hundreds of reporters chronicled The Rock's last hours as a prison.

Albright wasn't deterred by the ruckus, keeping his eye on his wards and his focus steely.

"What I was worried about was that one of these god-darned fools was going to give the inmates something that they could get out of their cuffs with," said the 77-year-old Albright, standing in his prison-gray uniform in front of a photograph of himself 50 years earlier.

Alcatraz started as a fort and became an Army disciplinary barracks before the Bureau of Prisons took it over in 1934 to house some of America's most notorious criminals.

Nine years after the prison closed, Alcatraz became a national park -- and one of California's most popular tourist attractions.

The photographs on display at Alcatraz were taken by Los Angeles-based freelance photographer Leigh Wiener for Life Magazine. Wiener's son recently discovered the negatives in his father's archive and contacted the parks service.

The black-and-white images tell the story of the famous prison's final hours, and will be on display to the public for the next three months.

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