Willis Newton became the longest dwelling Texas outlaw who robbed extra than eighty banks and trains. He and his outlaw gang robbed greater than Jessie James, the Daltons, and all the relaxation of the Old West outlaws-blended. Their largest haul passed off in 1924 when they robbed a educate outside of Rondout, Illinois-getting away with $three,000,000. They nevertheless preserve the report for the biggest train robbery in U.S. History kopar at newton .
In 1979, I interviewed Willis Newton at his domestic in Uvalde, Texas. A few months later the outlaw died at age 90.
When I stepped up and knocked on Willis Newton’s door there has been no reaction. After a minute I heard a raspy growl, “It’s open. Come on in.”
Stepping inside the rundown clapboard house with the unkempt yard, I noticed a small, withered looking old guy obtrusive at me from his rocking chair. “What the hell do you want?”
“Mr. Newton, I am the man that referred to as you the day past and wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“I ain’t talking to no one approximately my existence. I’m going to sell that to Hollywood for a bunch of money.”
I knew then that doing an interview with the antique outlaw turned into going to be a hard nut to crack. As great I ought to, I reminded him of our telephone conversation on the previous day when I requested him to offer me with a few details on a way to rob a financial institution or a teach. I told him I become writing a paperback novel (which turned into authentic) and that I wanted a few assist in portraying a genuine description of ways the robberies took place (which was also real). After some moments of consideration, he gestured to a chair in the small dwelling room and agreed to reply “just a few questions.”
In contrast to the chilly climate outside, it changed into warm and stuffy in his cluttered dwelling room-being heated with the aid of a small fuel wall heater. I fast unloaded my tape recorder and after a quick verbal exchange with Willis, exceeded him the microphone. I asked him a way to degree a financial institution preserve up and what turned into worried in robbing a teach. Then like turning on a wind-up toy, Willis essentially started out telling me his existence’s story. From time to time, I controlled to get in extra questions however for the maximum element he rattled off the nicely-practiced debts of his existence in gadget gun style-rationalizing the whole lot he had finished, blaming others for his imprisonments, and time and again claiming that he had most effective stolen from “different thieves.”
I had no concept what to anticipate when I stepped into his little residence that day however what I encountered become the quintessence of the crook thoughts. Everything he had finished turned into justified by using outside forces, “Nobody ever deliver me nothing. All I ever were given changed into hell!” As I listened in rapt interest, he sat middle level speaking in a high-pitched raspy voice, pontificating on an collection of topics of his selecting. Lacing his speech with big quantities of profanities, vulgarities and racial slurs, Willis turned into quite articulate in telling his memories – a grasp of fractured grammar. At times he would slip into mythological tale telling mode in which he could communicate of killing rabbits and camping out whilst on the run from lawmen. Then with a touch prodding he would return to the basic statistics of his tale.
In the manner, he informed me how he become raised as a child and the way he changed into first arrested for against the law “that they knowed I failed to do.” He went into element about his first bank holdup, how he “greased” a secure with nitroglycerine, robbed trains, and refrained from the lawmen that came after him. Willis described the Texas bank robberies in Boerne, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Hondo ( in a single night). He also associated the double financial institution theft in Spencer, Indiana and proceeded to provide bills of bank robberies in a multitude of other states.
Eventually he acknowledged the activities of the Toronto Bank Clearing House robbery in 1923 and sooner or later the top notch train robbery out of doors of Rondout, Illinois, wherein he and his brothers got away with $three,000,000 in coins, earrings, and bonds. He went into top notch detail about the beatings he and his brothers took from the Chicago police when they were later captured. As he told the story his face reddened and his voice rose to a pitched screech until he needed to pause to trap his breath. Then reducing his voice he defined how he managed to negotiate a cunning deal with a postal inspector for reduced prison sentences for himself and his brothers with the aid of revealing in which the loot turned into hidden.
He instructed approximately his jail years at Leavenworth and his unlawful agencies he ran in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he were given out of jail in 1929. He complained bitterly about being sent lower back to prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, for a bank robbery “they knowed I didn’t do,” in Medford.
After returning to Uvalde, Texas, following his release from prison, Willis swore that he “never had no trouble with the regulation after that.” When I requested him about his aged brother’s botched financial institution robbery in Rowena, Texas, in 1968, he exploded, “They tried to get me as the get-away driving force however hell, I became in Laredo, over four hundred miles away! I had 12 witnesses that stated I become there the night time antique Doc and R.C. Were given caught.”
At the cease of the interview, I requested him to comment on the Rondout loot buried in Texas by means of his brother, Jess. He stated he knew in which it changed into buried-just not exactly wherein because “Jess changed into whiskey-drunk when he hid it.” Looking at the frail elderly man dressed in a frayed union suit and a pair of stained pants, Willis did now not appear to have any loot left from any of his robberies; despite the fact that, regionally it turned into rumored that from time to time he might spend money that appeared to were revealed all through the ’20s or ’30s.
Finally, I became off the tape recorder and thanked him for supporting me with the info I needed for my paperback Western. Returning to my automobile, my thoughts changed into awhirl with the stories I had simply heard. The notion of writing a e book on the old outlaw had never crossed my mind and I changed into very honest in telling him I become a fiction creator and now not a biographer. But what a tale he instructed!
The following week I placed the cassette tapes in a safety deposit container wondering the statistics might be useful for a destiny writing assignment. A few years later, I transcribed the tapes, brought my notes and filed the interview away. Then even as working on every other book I got here across the interview file and knew I had to write his tale-however the complete story, no longer just what Willis had instructed me inside the interview. As I observed out this became a miles bigger task than I had anticipated. I tracked down numerous hundred newspaper and magazine articles on Willis and his brothers, courtroom information and police reviews. Then, in which I ought to, I interviewed the few closing those who really knew and had first-hand expertise of Willis Newton.
Along the manner, I unearthed a few startling proof that dispelled the myth that Willis and his brothers had never killed all of us inside the fee in their severa crimes. This is the first time that this reality has been added to light.
When I had completed the research, I knew I ought to write his story. With a few minor enhancing, culling some of the blatant racial references and over abundances of profanities, I tried to preserve his phrases to me intact. I do now not espouse demeaning racial phrases concerning any ethnicity of humans-whether or not it is the Irish, Jewish, Hispanic, African, Italian, or other deprecated populaces.
In some instances, I had to restructure his money owed for clarity. He spoke in a speedy fireplace jailhouse prose the use of a extensive variety of crook jargon that every now and then become difficult to follow. Wherever viable I strove to preserve his colorful phraseology, the use of the common expressions of the day.
In writing the Willis Newton e-book, I neglected most of his repeated self-justification for his moves wherein he took superb pains to paint himself as a gallant crook-within the Robin Hood vein. It is true that he robbed from the wealthy but he gave very little to the terrible. In a few of his accounts, he did describe giving the “hard cash” (silver coin) to a few terrible and downtrodden farmer that had helped him. In addition, he repeated the concept that he in no way intended to damage each person inside the robberies; “all we wanted was the money.” There is no doubt that Willis Newton turned into formed and stamped with the aid of the difficult economic situations of the southwest within the late Nineties and early twentieth century. Yet on the identical time, there had been hundreds of thousands of different human beings that strived to paintings tough and turn out to be stable citizens in their groups. It become his preference to head after the “easy cash.”
In poring over loads of newspaper reports and mag articles, I became struck with how a lot of the tale numerous with what Willis had advised me, every so often significantly. At the equal time I found that the newspapers, in their rush to get their tale out, misspelled names, were given their statistics wrong, under or over anticipated greenback amounts of loot taken, and had a totally hard time keeping the Newton brothers’ names immediately-Willis and Wylie (aka Willie or Doc) dealt them fits.
A few weeks before Willis Newton died, he become admitted to the health facility in Uvalde, Texas for checks on a large number of bodily troubles. After he have been there a several days, I went with the aid of his room and visited the old outlaw. I knocked on his door and he managed a susceptible, “Come on in.”
When I entered his room, I noticed a completely emaciated model of what I had visible in March of that year. Rail thin and protected with a pink rash on his legs, Willis cocked his head sideways and demanded, “Who are you?”
I with courtesy reminded him that we had talked at his home earlier and that he had given me recommendation on robbing banks and trains. He nodded his head and stared up at the ceiling, “Yeah, I don’t forget now.”
I instructed him I became sorry to see him ailing and in pain. He responded by pronouncing, “Yeah, I’m headed to the bar ditch. The health practitioner says the entirety’s long gone loopy inside of me. I know I’m a goner and desire I could kill myself but I cannot, ‘purpose I still were given my thoughts. Only crazy people kill themselves however I ain’t crazy.”
Realizing that his time changed into about up I requested him if he had any regrets or was sorry for whatever he had accomplished in his life. He cocked his head sideways and raised his head up off of the pillow obvious at me. “Hell no,” he screeched at me. “I’d still be doing them matters but my frame’s completed played out on me. If I turned into twenty years younger, I’d be walking weapons throughout the border into Mexico and bringing tablets lower back! Nobody’s ever give me nothing but hell and I ain’t ashamed of some thing I accomplished!”
So a whole lot for contrition and redemption.
I did now not recognize how to reply and remained quiet. After a moment he stared on the ceiling once more and delivered, “The handiest aspect I’m sorry approximately is that $two hundred,000 the ones cowards left in that financial institution after they were given spooked. They said, ‘We’ve were given $65,000 in bonds and we’re getting out before we get caught.’ Hell, we left $two hundred,000 simply sitting there on that counter. Damn shame, I told them I usually desired it all!”
The next day they moved Willis to a health facility in San Antonio wherein he died on August 22, 1979. Fierce and defiant to the sour stop he died the manner he had lived-as an outlaw.
During my 1979 interview with Willis he went into terrific element about the times he had spent in jail or jail. In describing his first jail time he said, “I turned into jailed for 22 months and 26 days after which sent to Rusk (jail) for 2 years. Every son of a complain knowed I changed into harmless. They knowd I failed to destroy no law!” Then over time he spent over two decades incarcerated in some sort of penal confinement. I by no means were given to invite him the question: changed into it worth it?
My bet the solution would were a convincing, “Hell sure!”
Spending a fourth of your 90 years of lifestyles at the back of bars infrequently appears really worth it to me.
As I left Willis Newton’s clinic room for the last time I noticed his health practitioner who became a personal buddy of mine. I requested him about Willis’ condition and he showed what I were told with the aid of the loss of life man. Then with a twinkle in his eye he requested if I desired to look an X-ray of Willis’ backbone.
Sure, I had no idea what to expect.
We went to a nearby viewing room and he slapped a film at the lighted viewing board. There turned into a totally wonderful spot positioned close to the spinal column. “That’s a German Luger slug he’s been sporting around for approximately 30 years. Some vintage boy shot him up in Oklahoma.”
As I gazed on the photo, the health practitioner concluded via announcing, “And damned if that vintage outlaw isn’t always going to be buried with it!”
I bet you can say it turned into a becoming eulogy-of kinds.
G.R. (Ron) Williamson is a historian, a western writer and a born storyteller. He has posted three non-fiction books on the West, many magazine and newspaper articles, and numerous Western film screenplays. His home is in Kerrville, Texas in which he lives with his wife and Chihuahua, “Shooter.”