The following column, which first appeared on Page 4 of the Thursday, April 24, 2014, edition of the Uvalde Leader-News, is an excerpt from the introduction to G.R. Williamson’s published account of the late Willis Newton’s role in the Newton Gang. The book, “The Last Texas Outlaw,” is available for sale at major bookstores and online.
It was a damp, chilly morning in March of 1979 that I knocked on Willis Newton’s door in North Uvalde. A slight drizzle was falling on me while I waited for a response. I knocked again and called out his name. After a minute I heard a raspy growl, “It’s open. Come on in.”
Stepping inside the rundown clapboard house with the unkempt yard, I saw a small withered looking old man glaring at me from his rocking chair. “What the hell do you want?”
“Mr. Newton, I am the guy that called you yesterday and wanted to ask you some questions.”
“I ain’t talking to no one about my life. I’m going to sell that to Hollywood for a bunch of money.”
I knew then that doing an interview with the old outlaw was going to be a tough nut to crack. As best I could, I reminded him of our phone conversation on the previous day when I asked him to provide me with some details on how to rob a bank or a train. I told him I was writing a paperback novel (which was true) and that I needed some help in portraying a factual description of how the robberies took place (which was also true). After a few moments of consideration he gestured to a chair in the small living room and agreed to answer “just a few questions.”
In contrast to the chilly weather outside, it was hot and stuffy in his cluttered living room being heated by a small gas wall heater. I quickly unloaded my tape recorder and after a brief conversation with Willis, handed him the microphone. I asked him how to stage a bank hold up and what was involved in robbing a train. Then like turning on a wind-up toy, Willis essentially started telling me his life’s story. From time to time I managed to get in additional questions but for the most part he rattled off the well-practiced accounts of his life in machine gun fashion –rationalizing everything he had done, blaming others for his imprisonments, and repeatedly claiming that he had only stolen from “other thieves.”
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