Texas is home to many outlaw legends. Even outlaws who weren't technically from the Lone Star State have become a part of our lore. Hence the reason why I got a knot in my stomach when my editor brought up doing some digging to find out...
Who really was the most notorious outlaw from Texas?
Unfortunately, I Don't Think There's An Easy Answer
I've checked numerous sites and sources. I've rummaged through list after list. I've heard all the arguments.
The fact is, there were a lot of outlaws that came through Texas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Boiling it down to just one seems impossible.
So, I've decided to look at some of outlaws who are mentioned the most, to come up with this list.
Thanks to that movie with Val Kilmer in it, Doc Holiday has achieved the status of super-duper folk hero. The tuberculosis stricken dentist is remembered more as Wyatt Earp's ride or die best friend, instead of being a gambler who was incredibly handy with a gun.
Doc was a dentist in Texas for some time, thanks to some doctors who told him the weather in the Lone Star State would be better for his tuberculosis. At least, that's how the stories go.
That wouldn't last long, though. Doc found himself in several shootouts in Texas, before deciding to flee westward. Eventually he would make his way back to west Texas, and supposedly that's where he would meet up with Wyatt Earp.
There rest, well...you've seen the movies.
John Wesley Hardin
John Wesley Hardin started his outlaw career at the ripe old age of...14. Legend goes that he stab another kid during a tussle while at school in, Bonham. By the age of 16, he supposedly added to that list four other names.
The story goes that in his outlaw days, John Wesley killed somewhere around 21 men. He would finally get caught and sent to prison. Legend goes that during his time there, he led Sunday school and he studied to become a lawyer.
After prison, he would go to El Paso. It was there that John Wesley would meet his demise. He would be shot in the back, and the reason why depends on who you ask. Some accounts say it had something to do with a love affair. Others say it was over the arrest of one of his friends.
Jim "Killer" Miller
James Miller, also known as "Deacon Miller" and "Killer Miller" was about as bad as they come, if you believe all the stories. Supposedly, Killer Miller helped 51 men figure out what happens when we die. That supposedly is by his own count.
Miller is one of those outlaws that made a habit out of playing on both sides of the law. While, by some accounts, he was a cold calloused murderous maniac, he was also a marshall in Pecos. He was even a Texas Ranger.
Eventually, the devil came calling for his due and a lynch mob in Ada, Oklahoma got their hands on Killer Miller to make sure he didn't escape justice again.
According to legend, his last words were, "Let 'er rip!" He then jumped from the platform, ending his own life.
Bonnie & Clyde
The legendary Bonnie and Clyde make every single list of this type. Their exploits are well known, and have been romanticized in song and film.
It was their Texas ties that would play a big role in their eventual undoing. The deep ties to their families in Texas would be weaponized by authorities, and the duo would be eventually gunned down. Supposedly, there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 rounds fired at the two.
I know there are many more that could be added to the list. There's a whole host of gangs, outlaws, cowboys, gunslingers, and just plain bad men that could and should probably be added to this list. Texas was a pretty rowdy place, after all.