BW - EP127—005: May 1954—Wild Bill Hickok

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James Butler “Bill” Hickok was born on May 27th, 1837 in LaSalle County, Illinois. An excellent marksman from a young age, in 1855 he became a Kansas Abolitionist Jayhawker. From there he became a constable, joined the Pony Express parent company, was badly wounded by a bear, and committed his first justifiable homicide. This was all before the age of twenty-five. During the Civil War, Hickok became a Union Army teamster, a wagon master, joined the Kansas Brigade, and became a spy for the provost marshall of Missouri. He was also a gambler and drinker, known to carouse for days at a time. On July 21st, 1865, Hickok took part in his first duel, killing a man named Davis Tutt. He shot Tutt through the heart from seventy-five yards away. A subsequent interview with Harper’s New Monthly Magazine labeled him Wild Bill for the first time. Rather than become an outlaw, Hickok became a lawman. He was soon a deputy Marshal at Fort Riley, and scouted for Custer’s Seventh Cavalry. By December of 1867 he was a Marshall in Hays City, and later sheriff of the same town. In April of 1871 he became Marshall in Abilene, Kansas. That October, Hickok justifiably killed a saloon owner named Phil Coe. But, during the fight, Hickok saw a man running towards him. He wheeled and fired, killing what turned out to be his own deputy. The event haunted Hickok the rest of his life. It was the last time he was ever involved in a gunfight. Radio’s version bore little resemblance to the real man. The format was the same used by the producers of Hopalong Cassidy and The Cisco Kid. Bill’s comic sidekick, Jingles B. Jones was voiced by the famed Andy Devine. Guy Madison was Wild Bill. Hollywood regulars supported. It was directed by Paul Pierce. The show first aired over Mutual on May 27th, 1951. On May 14th, 1954 the episode was called “Dangerous Advice.” Wild Bill Hickok aired until New Year’s Eve 1954. Mutual brought it back the following July. It ran until February of 1956. In early 1876 Hickok was diagnosed with glaucoma. Fearing blindness, he joined friends Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane Cannary in Deadwood, Dakota Territory. On August 2nd, 1876 he was playing poker. He’d badly beaten a man named Jack McCall the night before at cards. Although Hickok usually sat facing the door, no such seats were available. That afternoon he was playing five-card poker and holding a pair of Aces and Eights. Jack McCall walked in and shot Hickok in the back of the head from point blank range. Wild Bill died instantly. He was thirty-nine.

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