James B. "Killer" Miller (gun for hire)

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James Brown Miller

Also Known As: "Deacon Miller", "Killer Miller", "Deacon Jim", "Killin' Jim"
Birthplace: Van Buren, AR, USA
Death: Died in Ada, OK, USA
Cause of death: Hanged by a lynch mob
Place of Burial: Fort Worth, Tarrant, TX, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacob Miller and Cynthia Miller
Husband of Sallie Miller (Clements)
Father of <private> Miller; <private> Miller and <private> Jones (Miller)

Occupation: Deputy Sheriff, Frazer-Miller Feud, Town Marshal, Texas Ranger, Outlaw, Hired Killer
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James B. "Killer" Miller (gun for hire)

James B. "Killer" Miller, (October 25, 1861 - April 19, 1909) was also known as Deacon Jim because he regularly attended the Methodist Church and because he did not smoke or drink. He was an outlaw and assassin of the American Old West who was lynched by a mob of angry citizens over his assassination of a former Deputy U.S. Marshall.

Miller was married to the cousin of another famous old west outlaw, John Wesley Hardin.

Early life

Miller was born in Van Buren, Arkansas but moved with his parents to Franklin, Texas at one year of age. Miller's father, Jacob, was born in Pennsylvania in 1801, was a stonemason, and helped build the first capitol building in Austin, Texas. Miller's mother, Cynthia Basham, was born in Tennessee in 1827. Just a few years after the move both of Miller's parents died and he was sent to Evant to live with his grandparents. At the age of eight, Miller was again orphaned after his grandparents were found murdered in their home. Miller was arrested but was not prosecuted for the crime. His sister and her husband, Jim E. Coop, accepted him onto their farm near Gatesville. Until the age of seventeen, Miller would fight frequently with his brother-in-law until he murdered him. Miller was arrested and charged but would be acquitted for the crime.

After leaving the Coop farm, Miller became a hired hand on the McCulloch County ranch of Mannen Clements. Clements would be murdered during Miller's time of employment at his ranch. The killer would be later discovered killed by a shotgun blast, Miller's signature style.

Criminal career

Over the next couple of years, Miller traveled the Texas-Mexico border region and operated a saloon in San Saba County. In Reeves County, Miller became a deputy sheriff and he would later become town marshal in Pecos. During this time he gained a reputation for killing Mexicans claiming that they were attempting escape.

Miller would marry Sallie Clements, daughter of Mannen Clements, in 1891. Assuming the appearance of a devout Methodist he would earn the nickname Deacon Jim.

On April 12, 1894, in Pecos, Texas, Miller was confronted by Sheriff George A. "Bud" Frazer about his involvement with the murder of cattleman Con Gibson. Frazer did not wait for Miller to go for his shotgun, and he shot the assassin five times. Miller sustained only a small injury to his right arm. While Miller was attempting to fire his gun with his left hand, Frazer fired again, hitting Miller in the side, which finally put him down. After Miller's friends had rushed him to a doctor, his frock coat was removed to reveal the large steel plate that Miller wore under his clothes, which resisted most of the bullets from Frazer's gun, saving the assassin's life.

In 1896, Miller killed Frazer, who was no longer a sheriff and was working as a stablehand in Toyah, Texas, with a shotgun blast to the face.

On August 1, 1906, Miller killed the Bureau of Indian Affairs Lawman Ben C. Collins in Oklahoma as retribution from the friends of an outlaw shot and killed by Collins that same year. Miller was reportedly paid $2,000 to do so by unknown persons for that murder, which he carried out in front of Collins's home in front of Collins's wife. Miller was arrested for the murder, but he was never convicted and was eventually released.

On February 28, 1908, ex-lawman and killer of Billy The Kid, Pat Garrett, was killed near Las Cruces, New Mexico, ostensibly because of a land dispute. Miller was alleged to have committed the murder[2] and to have been paid to do so, but this is unlikely since Jesse Wayne Brazel later confessed to the crime. Brazel was tried and released on the grounds of self defense. Carl Adamson, who was married to a cousin of Miller's wife, was also with Garrett when he was killed, which most likely led to the rumors that Miller was involved. Historians still disagree over the ultimate facts of Garrett's murder, but the consensus is that it happened without Miller's involvement.


Miller was contracted by local ranchers Jesse West and Joe Allen, through middleman Berry B. Burell (though there is controversy over the spelling of the man's name), for the murder of Oklahoma cattle rancher and former Deputy U.S. Marshal Allen Augustus "Gus" Bobbitt of Ada, Oklahoma, either to acquire his land after his death or because of a personal grudge against the man (accounts vary). The fee was $1,700. On February 27, 1909, Miller shot Bobbitt with his shotgun, though the man reportedly survived long enough to return home to identify his killer to his wife. The murder was also witnessed by Oscar Peeler, the 19-year-old cowhand who accepted $50 to lead Miller to Bobbitt. Miller was arrested in Texas by a Texas Ranger and extradited to Oklahoma to stand trial alongside Jesse West, Joe Allen and Berry Burrell.

The evidence against the four suspects, however, was not considered strong, leaving open the chance for an acquittal. Only weeks earlier a man named Stephenson, a suspect in the November 3, 1907, murder of Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, Town Marshal Rudolph Cathey, had been acquitted on murder charges, which possibly motivated the citizens' ensuing actions against Miller.

A mob — reported by The Daily Ardmoreite as 200, and by Associated Press as "estimated from 30 to 40 in number" — broke into the jail "between two and three o'clock" on the morning of April 19, 1909. The mob dragged the four men outside to an abandoned livery stable behind the jail. Miller remained stoic while the other three reportedly begged for their lives. Miller made two final requests: that his diamond ring be given to his wife, and that he be permitted to wear his black hat while being hanged. Both requests were granted. He also requested to die in his black frock coat, this request was denied.[3] Miller is reported to have shouted "Let 'er rip!" and stepped voluntarily off his box. Ironically two prisoners who had killed Allen, Oklahoma Town Marshal Zeke Putnam were not lynched.

The bodies of all four men were left hanging for several hours while a photographer could be brought in to immortalize the moment. These photos were sold to tourists in Ada for many years.

The iron plate that Miller frequently wore under his frock coat was very likely the inspiration for Clint Eastwood to do the same in the 1964 spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars.


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James B. "Killer" Miller (gun for hire)'s Timeline

October 25, 1861
Van Buren, AR, USA
April 19, 1909
Age 47
Ada, OK, USA
Fort Worth, Tarrant, TX, USA