Willis Newton: The Last Texas Outlaw

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Price: $19.95

Pages: 264

Rank: 440,266

ISBN: 0985278021

Publication Date:

Publisher: Old Time Texas

Description: This the true story of Willis Newton and his outlaw gang who robbed trains and over seventy banks—more than Jessie James, the Daltons, and all of the rest of the Old West outlaws—combined. They robbed a number of banks at gunpoint, but their specialty was hitting banks in the middle of the night and blowing the vaults with nitroglycerine. One frigid night in January of 1921 they even hit two banks, back to back, in Hondo, Texas. Their biggest haul occurred in 1924 when they robbed a train outside of Rondout, Illinois—getting away with $3,000,000. They still hold the record for the biggest train robbery in U.S. history. G.R. Williamson interviewed Willis Newton in 1979 at his home in Uvalde, Texas. A few months later the outlaw died at age 90. With a tape recorder running, Newton rattled off the well-practiced account of his life in machine gun fashion—rationalizing everything he had done, blaming others for his imprisonments, and repeatedly claiming that he had only stolen from “other thieves.” Speaking in a high-pitched raspy voice, Willis was quite articulate in telling his stories—a master of fractured grammar. He spoke in a rapid fire jailhouse prose using a wide range of criminal jargon that was sometimes difficult to follow but Williamson kept his tape recorder running, changing cassettes as fast as possible. The taped interview revealed the quintessence of a criminal mind. Everything he had done was justified by outside forces, “Nobody ever give me nothing. All I ever got was hell!” Over the course of the interview, Willis told how he was raised as a child in the hard scrabble of West Texas and how he was first arrested for a crime “that they knowed I didn’t do.” He went into detail about his first bank holdup, how he “greased” safes with nitroglycerine, robbed trains, and evaded the lawmen that came after him. Willis described robbing banks throughout Texas and a large number of mid-western states, including another back-to-back bank heist in Spencer, Indiana. Eventually he recounted the events of the Toronto Bank Clearing House robbery in 1923 and finally the great train robbery outside of Rondout, Illinois. He went into great 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 high pitched screech until he had to pause to catch his breath. Then lowering his voice he described how he had managed to negotiate a crafty deal with a postal inspector for reduced prison sentences for himself and his brothers by revealing where the loot was hidden. He told about his prison years at Leavenworth and his illegal businesses he ran in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after he got out of prison in 1929. He complained bitterly about being sent back to prison in McAlester, Oklahoma, for a bank robbery “they knowed I didn’t do,” in Medford. Willis took great pride in saying that, “We never killed nobody, we was just in it for the money. Sure, we shot a few people but we never killed a single man.” During his extensive research, Williamson uncovered evidence to dispel this myth that Willis insisted upon until his death. Now Williamson, using transcripts from his interviews with Willis and others who knew the outlaw, first-hand accounts from eye witnesses, newspaper articles, police records, and trial proceedings, tells the true story of The Last Texas Outlaw—Willis Newton.

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