Billy Claibourne (1860-1882) – Claibourne, most likely from Arizona or New Mexico, began to make a name for himself in his early twenties. After William Bonney’s death in 1881, he insisted that he too, be called Billy the Kid. He claimed to have killed three men who laughed at this demand, though newspapers report that he only shot one man. Billy was arrested after having killed a man named James Hickey, but was found not guilty and released.
A cattle rustler with Clantons, he readily enlisted in the confrontation with Earps at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. However, when the time came, Claibourne, claiming to have been unarmed, ran from the confrontation and survived the gunfight. On November 14, 1882, Claibourne got into an argument with gunfighter “Buckskin” Franklin Leslie, when the gunfighter refused to refer to him as “Billy the Kid.” Later that night, a drunken Billy returned to the saloon and called to Leslie from outside to come out and fight. It was the last mistake he would ever make. In the inevitable gun battle, Claibourne was hit several times. While he lay in the dusty street, Leslie walked up to him and Billy said, “Don’t shoot me anymore I’m killed.” His friends took him to the doctor where he died six hours later. Allegedly, his last words were: “Frank Leslie killed John Ringo. I saw him do it.”
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, August, 2017.