Since Mr. Cordy has quite properly chastised me in another thread for lacking respect for Oklahoma's premier outlaw, Mr. Alphonse Jennings, I though I would attempt to expiate my sin by offering the following (from which I quote excerpts):
FORMER BAD MAN JENNINGS TELLS SOME OF ADVENTURES
He's Asking $100,000 In Law Suit Against Radio Company Which He Accuses of Damaging Him by Broadcasting Program.
Los Angeles, Sept. 28 --Neighbors avoided him and little girls wanted to join his "train robber band" after a disparaging Lone Ranger broadcast about him, former Oklahoma Badman Al Jennings, 82, told a jury today.
"I've had a lot of hard jolts in my life," said the little man whose blazing six shooters and hard-riding outlaw band terrorized the southwest 50 years ago."But I never felt like I did when I heard that broadcast."
"It hurt me more than anything that's happened to me."
Ever since the broadcast, he said, his neighbors have avoided him, and "even little schoolgirls go by and call me a robber." Two, he said, wanted to join his band "right now" and go off to rob some trains. . . .
The former outlaw seeks $100,000 from Don Lee Broadcasting system and the Lone Ranger sponsors for their August 7. 1944, broadcast. . . .
Jennings kept the jurors and courtroom alternately tense and laughing as he described--for the third consecutive day--his life as a cowboy, cattle rustler, bandit leader, politician, evangelist, and lecturer.. . .
He became leader of an outlaw band as soon as he had joined it, back in the 90s, he said.
"One of the boys proposed I should be the leader because--excuse me for saying this, judge--I had been a lawyer."
After serving a five year federal term for train robbery . . . he turned to evangelism "to clear my conscience" and to help others avoid a life of crime.
"But I got a little tired of that . . . Some of the preachers I found were worse than some of the outlaws.. . ."
He described his last gunfight, the one that eventually led to his capture. . . . It happened at the Spike's ranch, near Tulsa, Oklahoma, when 40 deputy marshals surrounded Jennings' four man band . . . .
"The bullets were so thick they busted all the dished on the table, knocked the pictures off the walls, and tore the clothes off our backs," he said. "Over 400 shots were fired into that house. . . ."
He was never a bank robber, he said in answer to a question by his attorney . . ."Oklahoma banks didn't have enough in them in those days to fool with."
Edwardsville (Illinois) Intelligencier, September 29, 1945, pp. 1-2.
I must sadly report that Jennings lost this suit.
Frankly, I have to agree with the quote the late Glenn Shirley attributed to Heck Thomas. "The Jennings gang was the most comic band of robbers to win notoriety in the Territory. Their first five attempts at crime, which included caseing a bank, their net take was $300, a conductor's watch, a jug of whiskey and a bunch of bananas. 'Course they did cause considerable vandalism, battering on railroad car doors, sending trains though stacks of railroad ties, and blowing up an express car. If that ain't pitiful, tell me what is.
Though there are no tales that this bunch of armed miscreats ever popped a cork on old Smokey Row in Pauls Valley, they may have paid the town a brief visit. In checking old court records at Pauls Valley, I found that on October 10, 1897, a group naming themselves as Al Jennings, Jennings, Sleepy Jack, Ray Long, Lon Bailey, and Henry Marbro, were charged at the Pauls Valley Federal Court with the crime of "shooting in the passenger coach" and released on bond. The group skipped the bond, and the charge was finally dismissed in 1900. (I've always wondered if it was legal to shoot elsewhere on the train.)
I should note that Mr. Jennings' grievance against the Lone Ranger was not the program's describing him as a train robber--Jennings was rather proud of that. What specifically angered him was the show's insinuation that he had induced a "callow, beardless youth" to join his gang. Train robbing, in his opinion, was an occupation properly limited only to adults.
He was also angered because the radio drama included a description of the Ranger capturing him by shooting a pistol out his his hand. This could have never happened, he believed, given his expertise in gunfighting.
You are hereby officially forgiven for your misdeeds. In the future, please try to remember that Oklahombres seeks to preserve the history of actual lawmen and outlaws.
According to Moman Pruiett:
"Al wasn't no gunfighter. He wasn't no lawyer and, so far as that goes, he wasn't no outlaw. He was just a little petty larceny fellow that was willin' to take a plea in a felony case, and do a stretch in the federal penitentiary just to acquire a bad man's reputation...Al tendered his career as a horse thief and train robber as his chief asset of citizenship."
(From MOMAN PRUIETT: CRIMINAL LAWYER by Howard K. Berry (1944 pp.266-267); and, HE MADE IT SAFE TO MURDER - THE LIFE OF MOMAN PRUIETT by Howard K. Berry (2001 pp. 338, 343)).
Well if there was anyone who was qualified to identify a real outlaw, it must have been Moman Pruiett. Pruiett has definitely placed the proper descriptors on BADMAN AL JENNINGS. Pruiett is becoming more and more interesting!
Speaking of the Lone Ranger, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves may have been the inspiration for the Lone Ranger character. In my biography on Reeves, which will be published next year by the University of Nebraska Press, I explain my theory on this conjecture. One thing we know for sure, a Texas Ranger would not have had an Indian sidekick during the post Civil War days in Texas.
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