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Billy the Kid

Outlaw

Born: 1859
Died: 14 July 1881 (shot to death)
Birthplace: New York, New York
Best known as: Baby-faced outlaw of the 19th-century American West

Name at birth: Henry McCarty

Born in New York City, Billy the Kid (also known as William Antrim and William H. Bonney) moved west and became one of the most famous outlaws in American history. The precise details of his exploits remain sketchy, but it is generally agreed that Billy the Kid was quick with his gun and his temper, and he proved to be an expert at escaping from small-town jails. Billy the Kid was already a veteran thief, cattle rustler and shootist when he became involved in land disputes in the New Mexico territory in the 1870s. Billy threw in with an Englishman, John Tunstall, who was involved in a turf war (called the Lincoln County War) between land and cattle barons in the newly settled territory. When Tunstall was murdered in 1878, Billy hunted down his killers, including Sheriff William Brady, and killed them. The Kid nearly got on the right side of the law in 1879, arranging to surrender and receive a pardon in exchange for his testimony against others, but the pardon never quite arrived and he went on the lam again. In 1881 he was arrested, tried and convicted of murder. But Billy the Kid escaped, killing two deputies in the process, but was hunted down three months later and shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett.

Extra credit: Pat Garrett's book The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid helped seal the legend of both the sheriff and the outlaw... Some legends say Billy the Kid killed 21 men in his 21 years, but that is probably an exaggeration; the exact number of his victims is unknown, but probably numbers between four and a dozen... In the Sam Peckinpah movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Bob Dylan has a small role; his song "Knocking on Heaven's Door" is from the movie. Kris Kristofferson played Billy the Kid in the same film... Paul Newman also played Billy the Kid in the 1958 film The Left Handed Gun... New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson considered pardoning Billy the Kid, but announced on his last day in office, 31 December 2010, that he would not issue a pardon.

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