In the storied history of Gotham City, the Wayne family has long been a staple of the economic and social landscape. While each member has drawn the curiosity of the city's citizens, the clan's most famous and revered members were Thomas and Martha Wayne. Although they were loved by the public for both their generosity and good works, their lives were ultimately cut short by an infamous act that would signal the loss of Gotham City's innocence.
Thomas Wayne, son of Patrick Wayne and the heir to the vast Wayne family fortune, was not content to simply rest on his laurels and take advantage of the billions his relatives had made in industry and real estate. After attending medical school, Wayne became a surgeon and was heralded as one of the most gifted members of Gotham City Hospital. Also a noteworthy philanthropist, he was heavily involved with numerous Gotham charities. He took great pleasure in being able to use his family's fortune and business contacts to benefit Gotham City and its inhabitants. Wayne did this through numerous gala events, fundraisers and benefits.
It was during one such benefit that Wayne met a young socialite named Martha Kane. Much like Wayne, Kane was also the heir to an immense fortune, the vast Kane chemical empire. At the time of their first meeting, Kane, like Wayne, was an active philanthropist. She was particularly interested in the plight of children in Gotham and around the world. The pair found a common bond in helping the less fortunate souls of Gotham City. Before long, they wed and ultimately had one son, Bruce.
But on the evening of June 26, what started as a light-hearted family outing to a Gotham cinema became the grisly scene of a murder that the entire populace of the city would not soon forget. Next, we'll look at the crime, its culprit and its victims.
The Murder of the Waynes
Following a screening of "The Mask of Zorro," Thomas Wayne, his wife Martha Wayne, and their 8 year-old-son, Bruce, left a theater on Park Row and strolled through the Gotham streets. They soon found themselves at the mercy of an armed assailant -- a petty thief named Joe "Chill" Chillton.
Chill demanded money and the pearl anniversary necklace Martha Wayne wore around her neck. Thomas Wayne refused to give in to the thief's demands. He lunged at his attacker but failed to unarm the assailant. In the ensuing chaos, both Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot. The only survivor was Bruce, who was spared from his parents' fate by approaching law enforcement. Joe Chill was arrested for the murders not long after the crime.
In life, Bruce and Martha Wayne did much to help the well-being of Gotham, but their deaths may have been the catalyst for the decline of the once flourishing city. After the Wayne murders, citizens looked upon the popular and inviting Park Row with increasing distrust and skepticism. If the Gotham police force had failed to prevent the city's most wealthy and charitable residents from being gunned down without regard, how could the average citizen expect to walk the streets safely?
In response to the public's newfound contempt of law enforcement, the Gotham police force became increasingly apathetic towards those it was sworn to protect. Many officers became corrupt within the growing underworld. Ignored by the police and abandoned by fearful citizens, the area known as Park Row eventually began to take in new residents, including peddlers, pushers, racketeers and streetwalkers. This repopulation of the area by the Gotham criminal element led Park Row to be christened with a new nickname -- Crime Alley.
After their untimely deaths, the vast inheritance of Thomas and Martha Wayne passed to their surviving son. Bruce Wayne, now the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, isn't content to let his parents' deaths be a symbol of Gotham's decline. Wayne created the Wayne Foundation, a nonprofit organization that specializes in using science to help create a better way of life for citizens of Gotham and the world.
The Wayne foundation consists of two main branches bearing the names of his deceased parents. The first, the Thomas Wayne Foundation, specializes in rewarding excellence in the field of medicine. It also provides support to numerous clinics in Gotham (one such clinic operates near the area where his parents were murdered) and its neighboring cities. The second branch, the Martha Wayne Foundation, specializes in the promotion of the arts and provides support for numerous orphanages, schools and soup kitchens in Gotham and around the globe.
Although they were looked upon as social royalty in life, Thomas and Martha Wayne's charitable contributions to the city of Gotham are often overshadowed by their violent deaths. Through the efforts of Bruce Wayne and the Wayne Foundation, perhaps the public's eyes can be refocused on the Waynes' good works rather than their tragedy.
You can learn more about Gotham, philanthropy and related topics by following the links on the next page.