Original Gangster: Meet Raymond Hamilton, Most Notorious Texan Ever Executed
Shockingly, Raymond Hamilton was executed by the State of Texas at only 20 years old. "Shockingly" may be a distasteful choice of words- he was put to death in the electric chair, nicknamed by Texas Old Sparky.
Is 88 years long enough to allow for a little gallows humor?
Of course, executions in 1935 Texas were different than they are now, even beyond the apparatus of the convicted's demise. The 1930s saw more executions than any other decade in American history. Hamilton was one of 122 people executed in Texas during that time. If you look at the list of the condemned, they are mostly very young- people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s dominate the list. It's easy to surmise that these were desperate times, and Texas was desperate to get rid of the most desperate (or devious, or deranged) criminals as soon as they were able.
So what makes Raymond Hamilton so special?
Raymond Hamilton was famous- or should we say notorious- during his short criminal career. You are probably more familiar with the gang he associated with- "The Barrow Gang" led by the infamous Bonnie and Clyde. Born in Oklahoma and abandoned by his father at 10 years old, Hamilton's family relocated to Dallas. Hamilton began his criminal career stealing bicycles and committing petty theft. Clyde Barrow grew up in the same neighborhood as Hamilton, who would join the Barrow gang and commit some of its worst crimes, beginning with his involvement in the murder of Deputy Sheriff Eugene C. Moore. Bonnie and Clyde would raid the prison that held him, so he was free to commit more killings.
Hamilton fell out with Bonnie and Clyde because of his troublesome and pot-stirring girlfriend Mary O'Dare, whose name is beautifully suited to her personality. She had made a daring suggestion to Bonnie- that she poison Clyde so they could run off with their robbery money, but Bonnie was loyal to Clyde until the end. On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were famously mowed down by at least 150 bullets- 17 hitting Clyde and 26 hitting Bonnie.
Meanwhile, Hamilton was committing a crime spree with another Barrow gang member Ralph Fults. He'd be captured in April 1935 while posing as a hobo after the collaborative effort between several lawmen. Rather than go out the Bonnie and Clyde way, he surrendered.
Less than a month after his capture, Hamilton would be executed. His last words were "Well, goodbye all."
Hamilton is buried in Dallas, with a nondescript headstone that reads: "Forever in our hearts." He's certainly forever in the history of Texas, at least.