In having requested official records concerning W. D. Jones from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, I had expecting to receive just cut and dry tabular records. What arrived instead, was a wonderful synopsis of W. D.'s early life and criminal career as stated by W. D. Jones himself, apparently as revealed within a Texas prison interview. But included along with this rich biographical info, was the specific knowledge I was after. Namely, the exact dates that W. D. Jones entered and exited prison-- in having served his time as an accessory, to the killing of Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis in January 1933. In addition to being of interest within the annals of B&C History, this info concerning W. D. would also impact the Grace Davies story-- in revealing the availability of W. D. Jones in possibly being the "handsome" man Grace remembers visiting her, when she was 8 years old.
But a pronounced roadblock seemed to stand squarely in the path of Grace's recollection, in that it's often been written that W. D. was sentenced to 15 years in jail for the Malcolm Davis killing plus 2 additional years-- having been tacked onto his sentence, as a result of the 1935 Bonnie & Clyde Harboring trial. Obviously if that contention were true, and W. D. served 15 years or more in prison and was released somewhere near 1950-- then W. D. Jones couldn't have been the mysterious man Grace remembers. Then as such, the possibility of W. D. being considered as Grace's father would be lessened. As Grace believes she was born in March 1932, she would have been 8 until turning 9 in March 1941.
Ah, but this aspect of Grace's story couldn't be that easy to disprove could it?? As it turns out-- No. And in fact-- the State of Texas prison records for W. D. Jones, just made it entirely possible that the mysterious man from Grace's memory-- could indeed have been W. D. Jones. But wasn't W. D. serving a term of 15 years or more in jail?? Well apparently-- that's not exactly the case. Many B&C books including the most notable ones, chronicle W. D.'s sentence as being the 15 years plus 2. However W. D.'s "actual" sentence as documented within Texas prison records-- was a much more pliable 2-15 years. And although 2 years were apparently added from the B&C Harboring Trial (to run concurrently-- more on this later)-- in fact W. D. was granted a reprieve of sentence in time for Christmas-- dated at Sugarland, Texas December 13th, 1940. I've included here, a scan of W. D.'s Reprieve of Sentence Receipt-- which includes the signatures of W. D. Jones and his Warden.
The Reprieve Of Sentence reads-- Sugarland Texas Dec 13th 1940. I W. D. Jones Register No. 77540, do hereby accept Reprieve of Sentence granted unto me, and agree to conditions stipulated therein, i. e., That I conduct myself in all things in an exemplary manner, and report to Hon. W. K. Howarth, Chairman, of Harris County, Texas, at such times and places as the said Hon. W. K. Howarth, Chairman, shall require. Signed in the presence of Warden or Farm Manager and Signature of Prisoner. Please have prisoner sign the above receipts and return all three to the office of the Bureau of Records and Identification, Huntsville, Texas.
Although W. D.'s Dallas prisoner number from his 1933 mugshot was 11711-- I've learned the register number on this receipt, and W. D.'s 1934 Texas state prisoner number were one in the same-- #77540.
Now when the Grace Davies story was brought to my attention, I thought I remembered W. D. having served a shortened sentence for the Malcolm Davis killing. However, in not remembering exactly where I saw that info-- I sought to review W. D.'s prison term as chronicled within some well respected B&C works, which many of us know. But even in viewing like descriptions of W. D.'s incarceration within these well researched accounts-- I've always been one to prefer learning of B&C historical elements such as this, from their source. Thus I contacted the Texas Prison System for this info. It does seem, many B&C authors used the 15/2 model for W. D.'s 1934 prison sentence without question-- and without elaborating regarding W. D.'s actual time served. It seems now that W. D.'s Reprieve of Sentence Receipt, puts an end to the long held perception that W. D.'s sentence must have equaled his time served. It also helps Grace Davies better understand, an important aspect concerning the possibility of W. D. somehow being her father.
As mentioned earlier, in addition to this most useful prison info concerning W. D.-- his prison records also include some quite insightful biographical knowledge concerning this long tenured Barrow Gang member. As W. D. puts it-- in 1933, he ran around some with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. One day Malcolm Davis a Ft. Worth police detective, came to Dallas in search of Gene O'Dare. Davis entered a house where he believed O'Dare was hiding. He did not find O'Dare, but decided to wait. Sometime afterwards, Barrow, Parker and W. D. drove to the house. Barrow and Parker started into the house. Davis attempted to arrest them, and when he attempted to do so-- Barrow killed him. Barrow and Parker escaped, and were killed before being tried on charges from the Malcolm Davis killing. W. D. was captured, identified and tried for Davis' murder. He remained in jail in Dallas for 9 months before his trial.
W. D. was born somewhere in East Texas on August 12th, 1916. **Note the difference in W. D's birth date as revealed here-- versus the date which appears on his headstone of May 15th, 1916. His father was a farmer but moved the family to Dallas in 1922. That year W. D.'s father and 2 of his siblings died of pneumonia. As a result of their family's tragedy, all the Jones children quit school and started to work. W. D. sold newspapers and did odd jobs, and thus had contributed toward his family's maintenance from the age of 9. He attended school for only a short time, and never completed the 1st grade. He attended school in West Dallas.
W. D. states he grew up with the Barrow boys and other known criminals from West Dallas. However, he claims he was with them on very few of their escapades. W. D.'s first trouble occurred when he was 11 years old. He was arrested on a charge of bicycle theft, but states that the case was dismissed because he was not guilty. His next trouble was in 1931. W. D. and L. C. Barrow stole an automobile in Dallas and drove it to Shreveport, Louisiana. They were arrested there and returned to Dallas. W. D. was held in jail for 4 months before being tried in Federal court for violation of the Dyer act. He was sentenced to one year and a day, and his time was dated back to the time of his arrest. For the unserved portion of 8 months-- he was placed on probation.
Hardly was W. D.'s probationary period over before he was arrested for car theft in 1932 and given a 2 year suspended sentence. Later in 1932 W. D. was in Beaumont, Texas with Charley Britton and Jack Murphy. The three were arrested on charges of auto theft and failure to stop and render aid. W. D. claimed they were not guilty of the charges, and were released-- without being held for the grand jury.
W. D. continued to associate with the West Dallas gang and was with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker on several of their shooting scrapes. However, he claimed not to have been with them on the robberies. In 1935, W. D. was returned to Dallas from the penitentiary and tried on a Federal charge for harboring Barrow and Parker. W. D. stated that he was given a 2 year sentence to run concurrent with his sentence in the Texas Prison system. **This is the info as noted before, where W. D.'s 2-15 year sentence wouldn't have been added onto from the harboring trial. W. D. stated he had gotten along well every place he has been assigned since coming to the penitentiary-- and at the time of this accounting, was working in the laundry.
Within a review of his personality, it was noted that W. D. could neither read nor write. However it was further noted that he had a vocabulary comparable to the average urban grammar school graduate. During this interview, W. D. was said to have been frank and cooperative. His prison report reveals that W. D. rationalized his offenses on bad associations. He claimed not to have killed Malcolm Davis, but admitted to being present at the time Davis was killed. He believed he was pleaded guilty to being an accomplice, when he was tried.
The following Summary and Recommendation is quoted verbatim from the Texas Prison interview and evaluation of W. D. Jones--
"Subject, W. D. Jones, #77540, was admitted 11-7-34 from Dallas County with a sentence of from two to fifteen (2-15) years for murder with malice. He had previously served a jail sentence for violation of the Dyer Act and admits one previous suspended sentence. He is also under a federal conviction for harboring a fugitive from justice. Subject was a member of the Clyde Barrow - Bonnie Parker gang. He has one brother serving a sentence in the Texas Prison System."
"Subject is twenty one years of age, practically illeterate, (an interesting spot for a misspelling)-- and single. He has no employment experience that is verifiable. During interview he was cooperative but seems to have been unstable and maladjusted and to have had a poor family background (shown by conviction of one brother and early family breakdown.). He will probably adjust fairly satisfactorily to prison routine but a future prognosis is problematic."
"Tentative classification: 2-A, Medium custodial care, rehabilitation rating 35, Employment Rating: Poor. Subject will probably be most valuable as a common laborer but if he becomes eligible for promotions construction work of a simple trade is recommended."
I hope all have enjoyed learning of some interesting aspects, of W. D. Jones' Texas Prison record. Of significance to me, is yet another W. D. Jones interview to mull over, along with the details confirming his prison confinement-- 2-15 years with 2 years added from the Bonnie & Clyde Harboring Trial to run concurrently. W. D.'s Reprieve Of Sentence Receipt-- shows he was released from prison on the Malcolm Davis accessory charge on December 13th, 1940. This date is important to the Grace Davies claim, in showing W. D. to have been a free man-- and available to have visited North Carolina in late 1940 or early 1941. However a careful read of W. D.'s prison interview, in detailing his activities within 1931-- leaves open the question of exactly when in that year he would have been free to conceive a child?? As I see it, the dates as stated by W. D. himself-- are inconclusive, but leave open that possibility.
My sincere thanks to an old friend at The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Rachel Williams-- and a new friend in Rebecca Matcek, for assisting me in this endeavor. In addition, my thanks to Laura Saegert of The Texas State Library at Austin-- for her consistently kind help, within these searches for B&C historical truth. As always-- I welcome your comments.