Shooting of Bud Ballew


 In 1922, Bud Ballew's name once again made the newspapers nationwide. Articles titled "Noted Killer Of Ardmore Slain By Ex-Ranger" and also "Ballew's Guns Silent", among others, reported biographical information about him, and the details of his death.

Ballew and his 18 year old son had gone to Wichita Falls, Texas to attend a rodeo "at which Bud and probably his son intended to enter in the riding contest." While there, Ballew was visiting with two friends from Lone Grove at their place of business, the Denver Domino Parlor. At about 1:35 p.m. on Friday, May 5, 1922, the police chief of that city, J.W. McCormick, a former Texas Ranger, and possibly two of his men, went to that location, after receiving a call reporting a disturbance. As the lawmen entered the domino parlor, (the ex-Carter county deputy) Bud Ballew was sitting at the bar "joshing with the boys." McCormick approached him from one side, and a detective from behind and to his other side. "According to Chief McCormick", when Bud was told he was under arrest, he replied, "You are out of luck" as he reached under his coat. It was at that point, five rounds were shot into Ballew's body before it hit the floor. Immediately afterwards, his body was taken to an undertaking establishment and embalmed.

"On word of the killing reaching Hardy Sanitarium", "Pilot Askew and undertaker Herbert Harvey flew to Wichita Falls" in a plane used to transport patients. They left Ardmore " at 3:15 Friday afternoon." Bud Ballew's remains were back in Ardmore by 8 p.m. that night. Once there, mourners greeted the plane. Among them were ex-sheriff Garrett, Bud's wife Fannie, and his son, Dorris.

The details given regarding Ballew's death became questionable, once his body arrived home. Chief McCormick's claims were met with opposition. His statement that "all four shots" fired into Ballew "entered from the front" from his .38 caliber pistol, and that "the hole in the back of Ballew's head was caused by a bullet emerging from the skull, after it had entered the left eye", appeared incorrect. Upon examining the x-rays taken of Ballew's body, Dr. Hardy felt that one of the slugs that ended the ex-deputy's life was of a different caliber that the gun used by McCormick.

Moreover, Buck Garrett's statement was that "Bud Ballew was murdered. Five shots and all from the back--he didn't have a chance", and articles like "Noted Killer Of Ardmore Slain By Ex-Ranger", which appeared in the May 6, 1922 issue of the Houston Post, giving this report, added fuel to the fires of controversy:

One of the bullets penetrated Ballew's left hand, tearing through his heart and coming out just below his left shoulder. A second shot went through his right breast, coming out through the right shoulder. A third shot went through his abdomen, while two of the five bullets penetrated his back, one going into the body just below the left shoulder and coming out through the abdomen. The fifth entered Ballew's head, just behind the left ear, and came out near his mouth on the right side.


While the argument over who shot, and from which angle, may never be laid to rest, it cannot be argued that the circumstances of Bud's death contains at least a few ironies. The first, Ballew had killed an ex-lawman during his tenure as a deputy sheriff, and was killed by an officer, after his own career as a lawman had ended. The second, J.W.McCormick, while serving as a Texas Ranger, and later as Chief of Police in Wichita Falls, had never killed a man, until that day. Bud Ballew, who had "eight notches on his gun", was his first. And the last, perhaps the most significant irony, the revolver of this noted killer, the revolver of a man who often shot first never left its holster, while five bullets entered his body.

Bud Ballew is buried near the gates of the Lone Grove Cemetery, in Lone Grove, Oklahoma. He is not as widely known as Heck Thomas, Bill Tilghman or many other Oklahoma lawmen of old, but Bud was their equal in every respect. Ballew helped bring law and order into an otherwise lawless Oklahoma county. Let's not forget him. Lest we forget one of that states most colorful and fearless lawmen.

copyright (c) 1999 by Stephen W. Riner

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