1903 in Scott County, Virginia, William Kinnie Wagner was born to
Nancy Clinton Wagner and her husband, Charles Monroe Wagner. He was one of eight
children. Farm life had taught him a few things that he would rely on in his future
endeavors. In time, he became a very good bronc buster and an excellent marksman.
Target shooting was one of his favorite pastimes. At the age of 16, he joined
the Richard Brothers Circus as a stunt rider and trick shooter. Before long, the
circus renamed him, The Texas Kid. Its not certain if the Texas
Kid ever saw Texas. In time, young Kinnie would tire of the circus life
and leave it. Yep, he needed more money. |
Moonshine running in Mississippi,
now thats where the money was! Young Kinnie set about running moonshine
and it went well for awhile, then came the setup, well, according to Kinnie it
was a setup. Kinnie claimed that the sheriff had hired him to run the moonshine
and then when the Feds started investigating local moonshining activities, the
sheriff got cold feet, thinking Kinnie knew too much and could possibly tell the
agents information that would implicate him (the sheriff).
had a watch which he claimed was given to him by a friend. The sheriff accused
Kinnie of stealing the watch and he was incarcerated in the Lucedale, Mississippi
jail. Well, Kinnie didnt like the Lucedale jail, nor any other that he would
occasionally reside in. Kinnie broke out of the Lucedale jail.
Eve, 1924, the sheriff sent a Deputy McIntosh to arrest Kinnie and return him
NOTE: I have to wonder if the sheriff told the deputy that he (the
deputy) was to bring in a circus trick shooter, who, given the right
firearm, could perform a hemorrhoidectomy on a gnat at thirty paces!
McIntosh wisely set up an ambush for Kinnie. A wise move on the deputys
part, but it was of no use. Kinnie spotted the deputy and fired, killing him.
On Christmas Eve of 1924, twenty-one year old William Kinnie Wagner
became a wanted murderer.
The state of Mississippi offered a thousand
dollars reward for Kinnie - DEAD OR ALIVE! Just drag his dead carcass to the authorities
and collect your money. Kinnie returned to the Virginia/Tennessee area. With the
help of family and friends, he hid from the authorities.
While Kinnie was
hiding out in the Kingsport, Tennessee area, local law enforcement learned of
Kinnies plans to meet with his sister, whom he had not seen in many years.
She was graduating from high school and to see her brother again was one of her
What a great scenario for an ambush! It was a brilliant
idea at the time, apparently the law in Kingspost, Tennessee never talked to the
law in Lucedale, Mississippi!
When Kinnie came into view, the shooting started.
He returned fire, creating ten orphans and two widows with the immediate deaths
of two lawmen. A third lawman lay seriously wounded while Kinnie made good his
escape across the Holston River. Dozens of men joined in the manhunt for Kinnie.
In time, he surrendered and was sent to Blountville to stand trial. The trial
netted him a guilty verdict and a date with the Tennessee electric chair.
if jail was bad, just think as Kinnie did, what the electric chair must be like.
Kinnie made another escape in 1925! He remained on the run until August of 1926.
While on the run, something happened that involved members of the Carper family
on a farm near Texarkana, Arkansas. Whatever happened ended in a gunfight one
evening between Kinnie and the Carpers, leaving Sam and Will Carper dead and Bob
Carper wounded. Later Kinnie was quoted as saying I would have gotten Bob,
but it was so dark I couldn't see to shoot straight."
a posse was organized and again Kinnie was being pursued. Kinnie was quite adept
at evading posses. He was on the run again, a situation he never liked, but it
sometimes beat the alternative.
Finally, in August 1926, Kinnie entered
the sheriffs office of Miller County, Arkansas and surrendered himself to
Sheriff Lillie Barber. He was quoted as saying, Im tired of being
hunted; I dont want to dodge people anymore.
Following the surrender
of course, came incarceration and more legal hearings. Kinnie finally ended up
in prison in Mississippi and it was here that he made his most clever escape.
was in prison long enough to become a trustee, which meant that he had been a
very good prisoner and as such, he could be assigned any one of various jobs at
the prison. He did not need the close supervision required of the average prisoner.
was assigned to care for the dogs. These were the very dogs that would be used
to track him, should he ever decide to escape, again. Well, Kinnie did his job
very well, day after day, month after month. - And Kinnie did decide to escape
Immediately following his escape, the guards and law enforcement
released the tracking dogs. The dogs took one whiff of his scent and turned the
other way. They would not attempt to track him! He had been secretly luring the
dogs into tracking his scent, then beating the dogs each time they did! Soon enough,
the dogs learned not to track his scent.
He lived quietly in Wahalak, Mississippi
for several years and was known simply as Big Jim. He was also on the FBIs Ten
Most Wanted List. He was captured at his girlfriends house after a jealous
rival reported him to authorities.
By this time, he was a living legend
among the working class of the South. He was the subject of at least three popular
country songs and even comic books, depicting his exploits. After serving several
more years in prison, he was granted permission to raise dogs in prison.
March 9, 1958, while checking on a new litter of puppies, he was holding a newborn
pup when he felt a pain in his chest and grew weak. According to witnesses, he
cupped the puppy in his hands as he fell to the floor. The puppy was unhurt. In
his last act as a living human, this notorious gunman protected the life of a
His body was transported from Parchman Prison in Mississippi
to Gate City, Virginia, where he was buried in the Mountain View School Cemetery.
"I have never been arrested for stealing or been in jail on any
other charge except killing." - Kinnie Wagner to Sheriff Lillie Barber.
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