Alcatraz Ex-con Recalls “The Rock” and a “Whiff of Fresh Mown Grass”

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Robert Luke revisits Alcatraz
Alcatraz ex-con Robert Luke and former guards and fellow prisoner at TripAdvisor presentation Fall 2015. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer

Robert Luke, assigned prisoner number 1118AZ, arrived at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary on April 14th 1954 and was paroled on April 29th 1959. It was the smell of fresh mown grass wafting across the island from somewhere in San Francisco that stimulated the transformative moment in Luke’s life, and spurred him to go the straight and narrow path.

He’s 88 years old and he’s been out of prison for 56 years, but it was only five years ago when he first confided to anyone other than his immediate family that he is an ex-con. Robert Luke authored a revealing book about his life on the Rock, Entombed in Alcatraz. He now returns to Alcatraz Island on a regular basis where he has achieved “Rock” star status, regaling visitors from around the world about his recollections of his life at Alcatraz, and of course, autographing his top-selling book.


I had the pleasure of spending part of a weekend with Luke while attending the fall 2015 Alcatraz Alumni Association’s annual reunion. I’m correspondent, Tom Wilmer, come along and join me on Alcatraz Island, administered today by the National Park Service, for a conversation with Robert Luke and discover just how a whiff of fresh-cut grass transformed his life.

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Funding for this podcast is provided by Honolulu based Hawaiian Reforestation Initiative 

Robert Luke revisit Alcatraz
Robert Luke at Alcatraz Alumni Weekend TripAdvisor Award presentation. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Broadway Cellblock at Alcatraz Prison
This cellblock was dubbed “Broadway” long ago by the convicts at Alcatraz Federal Prison. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer


<a href="http://www viagra internet”>Alcatraz Guard Tower
Alcatraz Island Guard Tower. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Alcatraz today. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Robert Luke
Robert Luke preparing for National Park Service Living History interview with Historian, John Martini. Photo Credit: Tom Wilmer
Robert Luke being videotaped for NPS Living History project
Videographer, Simo Nylander prepares to roll cameras for National Park Service “Living History” interview with NPS Historian, John Marini. Photo Credit; Tom Wilmer