John Billy and Thomas Willis

On April 12, 1888, Thomas Willis hosted several other men for an evening of whiskey drinking at his home near Albion, Indian Territory.

The next day, the still drunk men – Willis, John Billy, Madison James, Stephen Graham, and W.P. Williams – got into a fight. Willis shot and killed Williams, who was white, robbed him of money and whiskey, and buried him.

Williams’ body, which had not been buried very deep, was found a few weeks later. Willis, Graham, James, and Billy were arrested.

Taken to Fort Smith to stand trial, Billy, Willis, and James, all of whom were Choctaws, were convicted of murder on October 4, 1889, and sentenced to death on November 1. Graham had not been indicted due to evidence that he had not participated in the crimes.

Madison James’ death sentence was commuted to fifteen years in prison on January 14, 1890.

John Billy and Thomas Willis were hanged in Fort Smith on January 16, 1890.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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