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Oct 17, 2019
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Willis Newton Interview – 1979

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Willis Newton was the longest residing Texas outlaw who robbed greater than 80 banks and trains. He and his outlaw gang robbed greater than Jessie James, the Daltons, and the entire remainder of the Outdated West outlaws-combined. Their largest haul occurred in 1924 after they robbed a prepare outdoors of Rondout, Illinois-getting away with $3,000,000. They nonetheless maintain the file for the largest prepare theft in U.S. historical past.

In 1979, I interviewed Willis Newton at his dwelling in Uvalde, Texas. A number of months later the outlaw died at age 90.

After I stepped up and knocked on Willis Newton’s door there was no response. After a minute I heard a raspy growl, “It is open. Come on in.”

Stepping contained in the rundown clapboard home with the unkempt yard, I noticed a small, withered trying outdated man evident at me from his rocking chair. “What the hell would you like?”

“Mr. Newton, I’m the man that known as you yesterday and needed to ask you some questions.”

“I ain’t speaking to nobody about my life. I will promote that to Hollywood for a bunch of cash.”

I knew then that doing an interview with the outdated outlaw was going to be a tricky nut to crack. As greatest I might, I reminded him of our cellphone dialog on the day prior to this after I requested him to supply me with some particulars on how one can rob a financial institution or a prepare. I informed him I used to be writing a paperback novel (which was true) and that I wanted some assist in portraying a factual description of how the robberies occurred (which was additionally true). After just a few moments of consideration, he gestured to a chair within the small front room and agreed to reply “only a few questions.”

In distinction to the chilly climate outdoors, it was sizzling and stuffy in his cluttered residing room-being heated by a small gasoline wall heater. I shortly unloaded my tape recorder and after a quick dialog with Willis, handed him the microphone. I requested him how one can stage a financial institution maintain up and what was concerned in robbing a prepare. Then like turning on a wind-up toy, Willis basically began telling me his life’s story. Once in a while, I managed to get in extra questions however for essentially the most half he rattled off the well-practiced accounts of his life in machine gun fashion-rationalizing every little thing he had completed, blaming others for his imprisonments, and repeatedly claiming that he had solely stolen from “different thieves.”

I had no concept what to anticipate after I stepped into his little home that day however what I encountered was the quintessence of the prison thoughts. Every little thing he had completed was justified by outdoors forces, “No one ever give me nothing. All I ever bought was hell!” As I listened in rapt consideration, he sat middle stage talking in a high-pitched raspy voice, pontificating on an assortment of topics of his selecting. Lacing his speech with giant portions of profanities, vulgarities and racial slurs, Willis was fairly articulate in telling his tales – a grasp of fractured grammar. At instances he would slip into mythological story telling mode the place he would discuss of killing rabbits and tenting out whereas on the run from lawmen. Then with a bit prodding he would return to the fundamental details of his story.

Within the course of, he informed me how he was raised as a baby and the way he was first arrested for against the law “that they knowed I did not do.” He went into element about his first financial institution holdup, how he “greased” a protected with nitroglycerine, robbed trains, and evaded the lawmen that got here after him. Willis described the Texas financial institution robberies in Boerne, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Hondo (two in a single night time). He additionally associated the double financial institution theft in Spencer, Indiana and proceeded to offer accounts of financial institution robberies in a large number of different states.

Ultimately he recounted the occasions of the Toronto Financial institution Clearing Home theft in 1923 and eventually the nice prepare theft outdoors of Rondout, Illinois, the place he and his brothers bought away with $3,000,000 in money, jewellery, and bonds. He went into nice element in regards to the beatings he and his brothers took from the Chicago police after they had been later captured. As he informed the story his face reddened and his voice rose to a pitched screech till he needed to pause to catch his breath. Then reducing his voice he described how he managed to barter a artful take care of a postal inspector for decreased jail sentences for himself and his brothers by revealing the place the loot was hidden.

He informed about his jail years at Leavenworth and his unlawful companies he ran in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he bought out of jail in 1929. He complained bitterly about being despatched again to jail in McAlester, Oklahoma, for a financial institution theft “they knowed I did not do,” in Medford.

After returning to Uvalde, Texas, following his launch from jail, Willis swore that he “by no means had no hassle with the legislation after that.” After I requested him about his aged brother’s botched financial institution theft in Rowena, Texas, in 1968, he exploded, “They tried to get me because the get-away driver however hell, I used to be in Laredo, over 400 miles away! I had 12 witnesses that mentioned I used to be there the night time outdated Doc and R.C. bought caught.”

On the finish of the interview, I requested him to touch upon the Rondout loot buried in Texas by his brother, Jess. He mentioned he knew the place it was buried-just not precisely the place as a result of “Jess was whiskey-drunk when he hid it.” Wanting on the frail aged man wearing a frayed union swimsuit and a pair of stained pants, Willis didn’t seem to have any loot left from any of his robberies; though, domestically it was rumored that every now and then he would spend cash that appeared to have been printed in the course of the ’20s or ’30s.

Lastly, I turned off the tape recorder and thanked him for serving to me with the small print I wanted for my paperback Western. Returning to my automotive, my thoughts was awhirl with the tales I had simply heard. The considered writing a e book on the outdated outlaw had by no means crossed my thoughts and I used to be very honest in telling him I used to be a fiction author and never a biographer. However what a narrative he informed!

The next week I put the cassette tapes in a security deposit field considering the data is perhaps helpful for a future writing venture. A number of years later, I transcribed the tapes, added my notes and filed the interview away. Then whereas engaged on one other e book I got here throughout the interview file and knew I needed to write his story-but the whole story, not simply what Willis had informed me within the interview. As I discovered this was a a lot larger venture than I had anticipated. I tracked down a number of hundred newspaper and journal articles on Willis and his brothers, courtroom data and police stories. Then, the place I might, I interviewed the few remaining individuals who really knew and had first-hand data of Willis Newton.

Alongside the way in which, I unearthed some startling proof that dispelled the parable that Willis and his brothers had by no means killed anybody within the fee of their quite a few crimes. That is the primary time that this truth has been delivered to mild.

After I had completed the analysis, I knew I might write his story. With some minor enhancing, culling a few of the blatant racial references and over abundances of profanities, I attempted to maintain his phrases to me intact. I don’t espouse demeaning racial phrases concerning any ethnicity of people-whether it’s the Irish, Jewish, Hispanic, African, Italian, or different deprecated populaces.

In just a few cases, I needed to restructure his accounts for readability. He spoke in a fast hearth jailhouse prose utilizing a variety of prison jargon that generally was troublesome to comply with. Wherever doable I strove to retain his colourful phrasing, utilizing the frequent expressions of the day.

In writing the Willis Newton e book, I omitted most of his repeated self-justification for his actions wherein he took nice pains to color himself as a gallant criminal-in the Robin Hood vein. It’s true that he robbed from the wealthy however he gave little or no to the poor. In just a few of his accounts, he did describe giving the “exhausting cash” (silver coin) to some poor and downtrodden farmer that had helped him. As well as, he repeated the concept he by no means meant to hurt anybody within the robberies; “all we needed was the cash.” There is no such thing as a doubt that Willis Newton was formed and stamped by the tough financial situations of the southwest within the late 1890s and early twentieth century. But on the identical time, there have been a whole lot of 1000’s of different those who strived to work exhausting and develop into strong residents of their communities. It was his option to go after the “simple cash.”

In poring over a whole lot of newspaper stories and journal articles, I used to be struck with how a lot of the story different with what Willis had informed me, generally considerably. On the identical time I discovered that the newspapers, of their rush to get their story out, misspelled names, bought their details unsuitable, beneath or over estimated greenback quantities of loot taken, and had a really troublesome time conserving the Newton brothers’ names straight-Willis and Wylie (aka Willie or Doc) dealt them matches.

A number of weeks earlier than Willis Newton died, he was admitted to the hospital in Uvalde, Texas for checks on a large number of bodily issues. After he had been there a a number of days, I glided by his room and visited the outdated outlaw. I knocked on his door and he managed a weak, “Come on in.”

After I entered his room, I noticed a really emaciated model of what I had seen in March of that 12 months. Rail skinny and lined with a crimson rash on his legs, Willis cocked his head sideways and demanded, “Who’re you?”

I politely reminded him that we had talked at his dwelling earlier and that he had given me recommendation on robbing banks and trains. He nodded his head and stared up on the ceiling, “Yeah, I keep in mind now.”

I informed him I used to be sorry to see him ailing and in ache. He responded by saying, “Yeah, I am headed to the bar ditch. The physician says every little thing’s gone loopy inside me. I do know I am a goner and need I might kill myself however I can not, ‘trigger I nonetheless bought my thoughts. Solely loopy folks kill themselves however I ain’t loopy.”

Realizing that his time was about up I requested him if he had any regrets or was sorry for something he had completed in his life. He cocked his head sideways and raised his head up off of the pillow evident at me. “Hell no,” he screeched at me. “I would nonetheless be doing them issues however my physique’s completed performed out on me. If I used to be 20 years youthful, I would be working weapons throughout the border into Mexico and bringing medication again! No one’s ever give me nothing however hell and I ain’t ashamed of something I completed!”

A lot for contrition and redemption.

I didn’t know how one can reply and remained quiet. After a second he stared on the ceiling once more and added, “The one factor I am sorry about is that $200,000 these cowards left in that financial institution after they bought spooked. They mentioned, ‘We have got $65,000 in bonds and we’re getting out earlier than we get caught.’ Hell, we left $200,000 simply sitting there on that counter. Rattling disgrace, I informed them I all the time needed all of it!”

The subsequent day they moved Willis to a hospital in San Antonio the place he died on August 22, 1979. Fierce and defiant to the bitter finish he died the way in which he had lived-as an outlaw.

Throughout my 1979 interview with Willis he went into nice element in regards to the instances he had spent in jail or jail. In describing his first jail time he mentioned, “I used to be jailed for 22 months and 26 days after which despatched to Rusk (jail) for 2 years. Each son of a bitch knowed I used to be harmless. They knowd I did not break no legislation!” Then over time he spent over 20 years incarcerated in some kind of penal confinement. I by no means bought to ask him the query: was it price it?

My guess the reply would have been a powerful, “Hell sure!”

Spending a fourth of your 90 years of life behind bars hardly appears price it to me.

As I left Willis Newton’s hospital room for the final time I noticed his doctor who was a private pal of mine. I requested him about Willis’ situation and he confirmed what I had been informed by the dying man. Then with a twinkle in his eye he requested if I needed to see an X-ray of Willis’ backbone.

Certain, I had no concept what to anticipate.

We went to a close-by viewing room and he slapped a movie on the lighted viewing board. There was a really distinct spot situated close to the spinal column. “That is a German Luger slug he is been carrying round for about 30 years. Some outdated boy shot him up in Oklahoma.”

As I gazed on the picture, the doctor concluded by saying, “And damned if that outdated outlaw is not going to be buried with it!”

I assume you would say it was a becoming eulogy-of types.

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