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Kid’s pardon better left by wayside

Karl Terry: Local columnist

Some want to see Billy the Kid exonerated of his crimes and riding the trail as a hero. Some, like Billy the Governor Richardson, might want to steal a little of his fame not unlike the Kid used to rustle cattle on the High Plains.

I’ve kept silent for the last few months while our governor has fed his ego by insisting in interviews he’s still considering a pardon for Billy the Kid, a.k.a. William H. Bonney and Henry Antrim. It really seems to me like he might have more important things on his plate.

Richardson has worked hard at entwining himself with Billy’s history since he took office in his first term. Back in 2003 he proposed a little DNA detective work to prove or disprove that Billy the Kid actually died and was buried in Fort Sumner. He’s always maintained any publicity the state gets on our most famous outlaw is good publicity.

Fortunately heads less swelled prevailed back then and, hopefully, they will again if he hasn’t already made his decision.

Back in 2003, Richardson first stated that he might consider a pardon for the Kid. He has said the basis of that consideration has to do with the pardon that Territorial Gov. Lew Wallace promised the Kid. That promise was apparently made while Billy was jailed in Lincoln on charges related to the killing of Lincoln County Sheriff William Brady during the Lincoln County War.

Billy testified against others involved in Brady’s killing in exchange for the pardon, but before Wallace got around to the pardon the young outlaw had gunned down the two lawmen charged with holding him in jail.

Scads of books, movies and articles have been made about Billy the Kid’s life. Most of them have in common the fact that very few facts about his life are known. Some of the most documented facts though pertain to his famous break from the jail in Lincoln and his death in Pete Maxwell’s house at the hands of lawman Pat Garrett.

So much about the myth and legend of Billy the Kid is the work of writers like me who did precious little research on the matter before logging in on the story of his life and fate.

From my New Mexico history class I remember that Billy killed two deputies in Lincoln and Pat Garrett tracked him down and killed him in Fort Sumner. I would hate for students in our state’s future to read that a governor 130 years later rewrote their history books where Billy the Kid is concerned.

Let’s just let Richardson’s claim to fame be a political career that pretty much ended in an unsuccessful run for president.

Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at:

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