11 October 1878 – William P Longley

William P Longley

William P Longley

Controversy shrouds our next man. For over a hundred years, doubt has been cast over whether a mass-murderer actually kicked the bucket or survived his hanging.

His alias was Wild Bill and apparently the subject of this uncertainty was gun-toting Texan outlaw Bill Longley and his father helped put it about that the family had bribed their way out of their son’s lethal sentence.

Bill payer


Instead of hanging, for over a century it was thought that Langley had forked out the princely sum of £4,000 – the bill for his freedom, thanks largely to trick ropes and a benevolent relative.

You may be wondering what the Texan has done to warrant such a sentence. From horse rustling to murder, you name it he’d done it so maybe it’d have been easier to list what he hadn’t done.

Eventually the law had him firmly in its grasp, but by that time he amassed a range of infamous names the most famous being Wild Bill, as well as Tom Jones, Rattling Bill, Jim Webb and Bill Black.

Race relations


Indeed most of his victims were African-Americans or people of Hispanic origin and growing up in 1870s America in the slavery-torn South, it was hardly surprising that he was sucked into the deep-rooted racism permeating the area. Couple this with the fact that he harboured a growing resentment for the Yankees who were hell-bent on promoting tolerance and banning slavery and you had one lethal man.

His brand of tolerance was to plant a bullet in anyone he took a dislike to as a means of getting shot of them, starting at the tender age of just 16 when he apparently killed a black policeman.

In fact he is said to have cheated death – he was lynched for horse rustling but as the mob rode away someone took a pot-shot, but instead of hitting Wild Bill, it hit the rope suspending him and he lived to steal another day.

Strung along


Naturally, with such a gruesome reputation, when the law eventually caught up with him, lenience was hardly going to be the order of the day.

His mini crime wave carried the ultimate penalty – death.

And so he was hanged on this day in 1878…or was he?

His dad threw uncertainty into the mix by saying that rich family members had rallied by bribing their errant relative out of trouble. The controversy was finally put to rest as recently as 2001 when Wild Bill’s bones were exhumed and the necessary DNA tests were carried out to ascertain date and cause of death.

Sure enough it was confirmed that Longley had died as a result of his execution, just five days after his 27th birthday. His dad had been wrong all along.

Also on this day

11 October 1870 – Margaret Waters
11 October 1957 – Rhonda Bell Martin

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One Response to “11 October 1878 – William P Longley”

  1. Tim Davies Says:

    Longley was better known as “Bad Bill”. he could not have faked his hanging, as they miscalculated the drop, which (eventually) tore his head clean off, after several attempts. As for the Yankees promoting tolerance…well the truth about “Reconstruction” suggests otherwise. There was no tolerance for white Southrons there. Longley was an evil man, no doubt, but so were many who hunted him. It was a bad time all round, as the aftermath of large-scale war so often is.

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